Tuesday, May 29, 2007

[Stats] What do you think God is like?

"Baylor survey finds Americans hold very different views of God"

Charlotte ObserverMay. 27, 2007

A big survey from Baylor University that looks quite interesting, but I haven't had the time to go through it yet. Anyway, I post it here and I'll see if I can dig out some interesting facts later.

The full survey (PDF)

Reading habits in Malta

Just another poll showing more religious interest among women:
A poll on what people in Malta read showed that 6.7% females read religious books, while only 2.4% males did the same.

Times of Malta May 27, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

ECRI: Ireland should have more secular schools

"Ireland should open more multi-faith or secular schools to reflect the country’s growing diversity due to recent immigration, a European Commission anti-racism body said on Thursday. Fully 98 percent of Irish primary schools are still run by the Catholic Church and pupils who do not take part in religious rites "feel singled out", it wrote in a report on Ireland."

National Secular Society, May 25. 2007

The full report.

Revealed: UK schools dividing on race lines

"Experts say there are many reasons why pupils tend to flock to schools dominated by their own community. Faith schools, for instance, are unlikely to attract many pupils from across the ethnic divide."

The Observer, May 27, 2007
This is of course caused by more than religious schools alone, but religious schools are by definition a kind of segregation.

[Stats] Some American Gallup numbers on religion (2006-2007)

Some numbers here:

Would you like to see organized religion have more influence in this nation, less influence, or keep its influence as it is now?
More influence (27% -3) Less influence (32% -1) Keep influence as it is now (39% +4)
(Jan 2007)

Influence of Organized Religion (Summary)
Total satisfied (56% +1)Dissatisfied, want more (6% -1) Dissatisfied, want less (23% +1) Dissatisfied, keep as now (10% +2) No opinion (5%) (Jan 2007)

How important would you say religion is in your own life – very important, fairly important, or not very important?
Very important (57% -2) Fairly important (27 +2) Not very important (16%) (2006)

Do you happen to be a member of a church or synagogue?
Yes (63 -1) No (37 +1) (2006)

Did you, yourself, happen to attend church or synagogue in the last seven days, or not?
Yes (40% -3) No (60 +3) (2006)

Do you believe that religion can answer all or most of today's problems, or that religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date?
Can answer (60% +1) Old-fashioned (25% +1) Other (10 -2) No opinion (5%)

Which of the following best describes you?
Always the same religious preference (72% Switched from one religious preference to another (15%) Moved away from any religion whatsoever (10%) No opinion (3%)
2006 Jun 9-11)
[Note: check page 2 for reasons to change.]

Convinced God exists (73% -3) Probably exists, have a little doubt (14% +2) Probably exists, have a lot of doubt (5% +1) Probably does not exist, but not sure (4%) Convinced God does not exist (3% +2)
No opinion (2 +1) (2006 May 8-11)

Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible -- the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word, the Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, or the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man]?
Actual (28% -4) Inspired (+2) Fables (19 +1) No opinion (3) (May 2006)

Which of the following comes closer to your view about books or movies that raise doubts about Jesus Christ or the Bible?
Human nature to be skeptical about religion (72%) Work of the Devil to destroy people's religious beliefs (19%) No opinion (9%) (May 2006)

Have you, personally, ever seen a movie that had a profound effect, either positive or negative, on your religious beliefs or practices, or not?
Yes, have (26%) No, have not (72%) No opinion (1%)

Movie made you strengthen religious beliefs (81%)
Movie made you question religious beliefs (14%)
No opinion (5%)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Misquoting Harris

"Yesterday morning, I stumbled upon this article by Madeleine Bunting on The Guardian website. It seemed to be the usual moaning about “new” atheists being too aggressive, intolerant and ignoring the real debate about the “remarkable benefits” of religion. It was most irritating, but repeated themes that are ever more common in the popular press. Then I read this (I have left in the typo at the beginning, a habit for which The Guardian have been notorious for many years)."

A Load of Bright
Worth reading.

More Koreans feel they have fallen into economic margins

"Percentage of people who see themselves as ’low-income’ rises


When asked "the most important thing in life," health and family came first and second, respectively. The ranking of "occupation" fell to sixth from third, while that of "religion" rose to fifth from 10th."

The Hankyoreh, May.25,2007

That nasty poverty => religion connection strikes South Korea. Or maybe it's religion => poverty?

[Stats] LifeWay Research Examines Teenagers' Views on Eternity

More than 1,000 [American] teenagers were surveyed in January and February of 2007 by mail questionnaire. These results are compared to an identical survey conducted in 2005. Each sample consisted of 12-19 year-olds.

Though the large majority of teenagers believe heaven exists (69 percent), there has been a 6 percent drop since 2005 (75 percent) in the percentage of teens who are sure in their belief of heaven. Only 5 percent of teenagers strongly agree that they do not believe heaven exists.

African American teenagers are more likely to believe in heaven than the average teen (81 percent vs. 70 percent). Girls (73 percent) are also more likely to strongly agree heaven exists when compared to guys (66 percent).

Four percent of teenagers strongly agree with the statement, “I don’t care if I go to heaven.”

When asked about personal religious activity within the last 30 days, 39 percent of respondents said they prayed regularly and 14 percent said they read the Bible regularly during that time.
Compared to the 2005 results, there are several significant statistical declines. Fewer teens are attending Sunday school (20 percent vs. 24 percent) and small-group Bible studies (14 percent vs. 18 percent).

As for outreach activity, fewer teenagers are discussing their beliefs with friends and inviting them to church activities. Twenty-four percent said they had told a friend about their religious beliefs in the last 30 days (compared to 30 percent in 2005). Fifteen percent had invited someone to a church activity in the last 30 days (compared to 19 percent in 2005).
Female teens are more active religiously than their male counterparts. More females pray regularly (48 percent vs. 31 percent) and read the Bible regularly (17 percent vs. 11 percent) than male teenagers.

The level of teen participation is also higher for females than males for church youth group social activities (26 percent vs. 20 percent), small group Bible studies (18 percent vs. 11 percent), and leadership roles in their church youth group (10 percent vs. 6 percent).

Lifeway.com, May 2007

There are a lot more numbers in the original article. Notice the decline, and that females seems to be more religious than males, and that African Americans seems to be more religious than the average.

See also: Knockin' on Heaven's Door: Teens confused about heaven and how to get there

"A warning signal to the church?
These observations should send out a warning signal to the church: INFLUENCE IS BEING LOST WITH THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH."

Turkey: Scientists face off against creationists

"A geneticist at Istanbul University, Haluk Ertan, sums up the situation succinctly. "Turkey," he says, "is the headquarters of creationism in the Middle East."

"Not just the Middle East, the world", insists Tarkan Yavas, the dapper, youthful director of the Istanbul-based Foundation for Scientific Research (BAV). The 15-year-old institute had generated a prodigious amount of information, publishing hundreds of titles.

Headed by a charismatic preacher, Adnan Oktar, BAV’s latest production is the 770-page "Atlas of Creation" which it sent free of charge to scientists and schools in Britain, Scandinavia, France and Turkey this February.


The claims may sound outrageous, but it is part of a formidably effective propaganda machine. A survey in 2006 showed that only 25 percent of Turks fully accepted the principle of evolution. According to another poll in 2005, 50 percent of biology teachers questioned or rejected evolution."

Eurasianet.org, 5/24/07

See also this booklet on Evolution if you need it.

[Comment] Gingrich's War on 'Secularism'

"All 43 American presidents – even those who doubted religion – associated themselves with the Christian faith. Today, it is still far easier for a politician from a fringe religious sect, such as Mormonism, to be a serious national candidate than it would be for an atheist or an agnostic.
Yet, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is basing his political comeback, in part, on an assertion that the real bias in America is against those who believe in religion and that “radical secularism” is oppressing them.


There is, of course, a grave danger when a powerful group begins to view itself as the victim, because its real power allows these ersatz oppressed to inflict far greater harm on their imaginary persecutors than could a group with little or no power.

Historically, the world has seen this phenomenon many times, such as when Christians in Europe convinced themselves that they were at the mercy of cunning Jews. Many of the continent’s anti-Jewish pogroms were conducted by Christians convinced that they were simply defending their way of life, that they were the real victims."

Robert Parry, Baltimore Chronicle, May 21, 2007.

Cosmopolitan Religious-Right Groups Travel to Europe to Fight Gay Marriage, Abortion

""[T]he cultural battle has gone international," declared Allan Carlson, president of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society. "The American religious right, instead of being isolationist, has in fact gone global." Indeed, representatives from leading far-right groups – including American Family Association, Concerned Women For America, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Heritage Foundation and the Discovery Institute (advocate of "Intelligent Design" creationism) – are taking a field trip to Poland this weekend for the Howard Center's fourth World Congress of Families."
Rightwingwatch.org, May 10, 2007

[Stats] The essentials of belief

86 percent believe in God or a supreme being;
75 percent believe in life after death;
86 percent believe in heaven;
77 percent believe in hell;
69 percent believe in a God described as the "all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect Creator of the universe who rules the world today";
Almost nine out of 10 people (87 percent) say the universe was originally created by God;
Only 9 percent of Americans profess no religion at all;
More then 80 percent – including 71 percent of college graduates – believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God;
34 percent believe the Bible is the actual word of God to be taken literally, word for word;
And most Americans still to this day say they are Christians, with numbers ranging from 77 percent to 86 percent."

Worldnetdaily.com, May 19, 2007

Some unsourced numbers from this hardline Christian site, but interesting nevertheless.

[Chris Hedges] The Christian Right's Fear of Pleasure is Our Greatest Threat to Choice

"But since this is a war with a wider agenda, abortion statistics and facts do not count. The Christian right fears pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, which it sees as degrading, corrupting and tainted. For many, their own experiences with sex -- coupled with their descent into addictions and often sexual and domestic abuse before they found Christ -- have led them to build a movement that creates an external rigidity to cope with the chaos of human existence, a chaos that overwhelmed them. They do not trust their own urges, their capacity for self-restraint or judgment. The Christian right permits its followers to project evil outward, a convenient escape for people unable to face the darkness and the psychological torments within them."
Chris Hedges, Truthdig. (Via Alternet) May 19, 2007.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Germany: Founder Of Council Of Ex-Muslims Seeks To 'Break Taboo'

"Mina Ahadi, an Iranian-born activist living in Germany, has founded a council of former Muslims who have renounced their faith. Members of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims are immigrants from predominantly Islamic countries. Ahadi, who is now under police protection, spoke with RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari.


"On the one hand, when there is talk about people who have come to Germany from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Turkey, they're all being labeled Muslims; then all of these 3 1/2 million people are put in the same bag, and Islamist organizations are being presented as being in charge of them.
People like myself, we sought asylum in Germany and we came to live here because we [opposed] political Islam and such organizations. Many of the problems here -- such as honor killings or imposing the Islamic hejab on children, or building a number of mosques here -- create divisions among people. All of these are explained to society based on the argument that Muslims have a different culture or Muslims have different ideas. All of these prompted those of us who are critical and who oppose such things to create a body that will have different policies regarding such issues.


All our members are living in Germany, and our only principle is that those who become our members [must] be atheists and not believe in God or any religion.""

Rferl.org, April 20, 2007

See also: "Not Possible to Modernize Islam" in Der Spiegel (27. Feb 2007)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

[stats] 45% - Daily Prayer Important in USA

"Fewer than half of American adults (45%) now completely agree with the statement that "prayer is an important part of my daily life;" that number has declined from a high of 55% in 1999, although adding in those who mostly agree with the statement, fully 78% of Americans endorse the importance of prayer. Large numbers also agree completely or mostly that "we will all be called before God at the Judgment Day to answer for our sins" (79% down from 84% in 1994) and also at least mostly agree that they never doubt the existence of God (83% down from 88% in 1999)."

PewResearch 14. May 2007

Check the links for graphs.

Revealing The Origins Of Morality -- Good And Evil, Liberal And Conservative

"Haidt['s] own research demonstrates that people generally follow their gut feelings and make up moral reasons afterwards. "Since the time of the Enlightenment," Haidt says, "many philosophers have celebrated the power and virtue of cool, dispassionate reasoning. Unfortunately, few people other than philosophers can engage in such cool, honest reasoning when moral issues are at stake. The rest of us behave more like lawyers, using any arguments we can find to make our case, rather than like judges or scientists searching for the truth. This doesn't mean we are doomed to be immoral; it just means that we should look for the roots of our considerable virtue elsewhere -- in the emotions and intuitions that make us so generally decent and cooperative, yet also sometimes willing to hurt or kill in defense of a principle, a person or a place."

Haidt argues that human morality is a cultural construction built on top of -- and constrained by -- a small set of evolved psychological systems."

Sciencedaily.com, May 18, 2007

Notice that you can also take a few interesting moral tests at Yourmorals.org

Monday, May 21, 2007

[Comment] Extra! Extra! Atheists Whip Christians in Debate! Again! And Again

"For one, nobody out-rationalizes Sam Harris. The guy has a brain the size of Europe — and all of it is connected to his mouth. He also seems entirely compassionate and utterly Pro-Human, two qualities I know I enjoy in a person. I think Sam Harris stands as pretty much the ultimate example of what a person can be and think when they insist that rational thought, above all, should be respected. And I can respect that. It's certainly not the worst thing for a person to stake their claim on.


But we've got to understand that once we decide, for whatever reason, to Vote God, we necessarily mark ourselves, in the eyes of someone who's gone with option No God, as extraordinarily irrational. At that point we can't help but seem to them as fundamentally (so to speak) bonkers.


So Rick Warren loses the debate. In the end, we Christians will always lose the debate with atheists. Because they're using the language of logic. And there are no words for the essence of the Christian experience. And there never will be, thank God."

John Shore, Crosswalk, 19. May 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cardinal to ordain 13 new priests -- 12 from overseas

"Cardinal Francis George will ordain 13 new priests Saturday.


U.S. bishop leaders say they're importing more priests because of a clergy shortage."

Chicago Sun-Times, May 17, 2007

You know a religion is in decline in a country when they have to import priests.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Man Talks to God, But Is He Nuts?

"In 2005, Peter Braunstein sexually abused a former co-worker. Braunstein insists that he has not only been talking to God, though, but that God has been talking back — and explaining that Braunstein is destined to die horribly. His defense lawyers insist that this proves Braunstein is a complete loon, but prosecutors deny this explanation.
What, exactly, makes Braunstein looney? Talking to God? Hearing back from God? Receiving information from God abut his destiny? No court could find in favor of any such conclusion without directly contradicting and denying the foundations of most Western religions. On the other hand, if Braunstein isn't nuts, it's hard to see who would qualify.


It's not his actions I'm focusing on here, because most religious theists don't engage in sexual abuse and arson, but his claims about his conversations with God. What reasons are there to think he has a "broken brain" but not Pope Benedict XVI? What about all the politicians who claim to know what God wants for America, American society, and Americans in their personal lives? What about all the religious believers who are convinced that God communicates to them in various ways? If Braunstein's brain is "just broke," how are other people's brains not "just broke"? "

Atheism.about.com, May 18, 2007

[Science] Is Creationism Child's Play?

"These developmental data suggest that resistance to science will arise in children when scientific claims clash with early emerging, intuitive expectations. This resistance will persist through adulthood if the scientific claims are contested within a society, and it will be especially strong if there is a nonscientific alternative that is rooted in common sense and championed by people who are thought of as reliable and trustworthy. This is the current situation in the United States, with regard to the central tenets of neuroscience and evolutionary biology. These concepts clash with intuitive beliefs about the immaterial nature of the soul and the purposeful design of humans and other animals, and (in the United States) these beliefs are particularly likely to be endorsed and transmitted by trusted religious and political authorities (24). Hence, these fields are among the domains where Americans' resistance to science is the strongest."

The Panda's Thumb, May 18, 2007
From the new Science paper Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg, 2007, "Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science," Science, 316(5827), 996-997, 18 May 2007, DOI: 10.1126/science.1133398.
Hopefully, they will be able to break the idiot code.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

[Stats] Most Americans, Protestants Favor Hate Crimes Expansion

"Just a week after faith-based groups denounced the House vote approving the legislation, the Gallup Poll revealed 68 percent of Americans are for the expansion while only 27 percent oppose it. Moreover, 65 percent of Protestant and other non-Catholic Christians said they would favor it.


Highly religious Americans were less likely to favor expanding the federal hate crime laws than those who seldom attend church. Still, 64 percent of those who attend church weekly expressed that they favor the bill. Among the less religious, 67 percent of those who attend church almost every week or monthly support the expansion and 73 percent of Americans who seldom or never attend church also favor it.


Conservative Christian leaders say expanding the Hate Crimes Act could silence believers who view homosexuality as sinful."

Christian Post, May. 17 2007

Christianity's sins against science

"Here's my quick list of objections to religion. Please note that I understand there will be individual variation, both between people in a sect and between sects themselves (Calvinists and Unitarians will have different views of destiny, for instance, and Buddhists seem less prone to the tyranny of authoritarianism). Also, the general public will embrace these sins a little less fervently than creationists and fundamentalists, but they're all there to some extent—while sometimes I'll mention creationists as extreme examples, that does not mean I am implying that all religious people are creationists."

Pharyngula, May 10, 2007
A good read!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

[Stats] Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'

"RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.
According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.


"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.
"The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so."


He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added."

The Times, September 27, 2005

A bit old, but useful. See also "Church attendance by country" at Nationmaster.com

Monday, May 14, 2007

ACLU Cheers House Passage of Hate Crimes Legislation

"For the first time, the ACLU was able to announce its full support for hate crimes legislation. In the past, the organization has not been able to support hate crime bills because they were written in a way that threatened constitutionally protected speech. But the legislation introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) shows that it is possible to protect targets of hate crimes without jeopardizing free speech or association rights."

ACLU.org, 5/3/2007

How to outlaw Christianity - Chuck Norris reports

"Today many more antagonist groups and individuals to theism abound, and they are using every means possible for global proliferation – from local government to the World Wide Web. Such secular progressives include the Institute for Humanist Studies, Secular Coalition of America, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Internet Infidels, the Atheist Alliance International, Secular Student Alliance, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, etc. Of course no list of atheistic advocates would be complete without mentioning the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, as well as the anti-God militancy of men like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris".

Wnd.com, May 14, 2007
I just had to quote Chuck Norris listing up almost all good and the brave (although he didn't insert the links). Chuck should perhaps ask himself why there seems to be an abundance of organisastions wanting to fight religious influence.

Barack Obama on the role of religion in politics

"Given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."

Dangerousintersection.org May 13th, 2007 (Speech June 28th, 2006.) See also Lynn Sweet's blog)

He says a lot more in that speech and it's certianly a nice change from the Bush crusade.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Swearing on the bible - a telling example

"Rape victim questioned by defense on inconsistencies in her testimony


After Farrugia presented more of her alleged inconsistencies, the girl argued that most of her story was consistent. “Usually if you’re lying you can’t keep your story for a full year 90 percent correct,” she said.

The girl agreed with Woods’ attorney, Robert Fogg, that she had placed her hand on a Bible and “swore to God” to tell the truth.

“Are you an atheist?” Fogg then asked. Prosecutor Claudette S. Antholzner objected and was sustained."

Buffalonews.com 05/12/07
Just a particularly telling example on how swearing on the bible in court can affect a case.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

[Richard Dawkins] How dare you call me a fundamentalist

"You’re preaching to the choir. What’s the point?
The nonbelieving choir is much bigger than people think, and it desperately needs encouragement to come out. Judging by the thanks that showered my North American book tour, my articulation of hitherto closeted thoughts is heard as a kind of liberation."

The Times, May 12, 2007

And I am one happy member of the choir! Join the choir here.

Friday, May 11, 2007

[Opinion] Gov. Huckabee, Here's "What In the World" Evolution Has To Do With Being President

"But then [Mike Huckabee] said "I'm not sure what in the world that has to do with being President of the United States."

Maybe we can help.

You see, Governor, it was you and your fundamentalist buddies who dragged your religion into everybody's government. From evolution to abortion to stem cell research to abstinence-only sex education to HIV prevention to global warming to the Middle East, Republican policy follows the religious doctrine of right wing Christian extremists. It dictates policy on every single social issue.


Governor, in case you're still confused, your faith-based views on matters like evolution have everything to do with being President, because you won't stop trying to impose them on the rest of us. Your faith puts you on the wrong side of a lot of social issues; luckily, it looks like Darwin's theory is about to be proven again."

Huffingtonpost.com, 05.05.2007

Matthew Parris: The American Empire Is In Decline: And Islamists Are Useless

"Has it not occurred to us that if al-Qa'eda really were as wily and resourceful as we tell ourselves they are, and if their tentacles really did extend as wide and deep as some say, they would be on the advance — not battled into a stalemate by Western security and intelligence?


How can any culture which despises modernity, hates mobility, distrusts individual liberty and autonomy, persecutes those who deviate from cultural or ideological norms, imposes a kind of brutal conformity on the way people live, love and work, and at a stroke disempowers 50 per cent of its people (women) from proper education and from all career opportunity so that every boy-child it produces is being brought up by a person who knows little of the world and only a fraction of what the boy must learn — how can such a culture bestride the 21st century, as Selbourne fears Islamism will do?

We are hugely overestimating our supposed enemy."

The Spectator (Via Anorak.co.uk 6 May 2007)

Five African stories

It is interesting to keep an eye on religion in Africa. On the bright side, you have bishops speaking out against Mugabe and there are churches fighting for change. On the truly dark side, you see superstition, anti-condom attitudes, greed, religious fighting etc.

"Gambia: The Commercialisation of Religion
We are once again in the Gamo (Ziyara) season in The Gambia where everyday, on radio and television, as well as in other media outlets, we hear or read announcements of Gamos being organised all over the country, virtually on a daily basis, and they all invite President Jammeh and anyone else the organisers think would donate some money as special guests of honour.


As a result of this proliferation of Gamos, there has now emerged a clique of Talibes and pseudo-Islamic scholars going about looking for such events where they can be hired as preachers or singers, no doubt to make as much money as possible."

Allafrica.com 10 May 2007

"Uganda: Orombi Decries Homosexuality
THE head of the Church of Uganda, the Rt. Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, has warned Christians against practising lesbianism and homosexuality lest they attract God's wrath.


He said it was a shame that lesbians and homosexuals in Uganda had become bold enough to demand constitutional rights.
He added that just like the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were razed to ashes, God would not let this sin go unpunished. He also expressed concern over the growing sexual immorality among married couples.


He said it was the Christians' duty to cater for the welfare of church leaders. "God will not rain manna from heaven again. It is right there with you. God's messengers have families, they need to pay school fees and we need to dress decently because we are marketers of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Allafrica.com, 9 May 2007

"Uganda: Clergy Advised Against Discouraging Wealth
THE clergy have been warned against sticking onto doctrines that discourage people from investing on earth because their rewards are in heaven.

The retired bishop of Rwenzori Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Eustace Kamanyire, said: "Telling people not to mind about material welfare, that their reward is in heaven is misleading."

Allafrica.com 8 May 2007

"Malawi: Dilemma - Government, Faith Community - Daggers Drawn on Sex Education and Condom Use
Despite overwhelming evidence in favour of it, the faith community still regard the practice of using condoms as protection against HIV/AIDS as a taboo and have said the condoms have pinprick size holes that let the virus through."

Allafrica.com, 7 May 2007

"Sudan: Yambio Diocese to Build New Cathedral
The Catholic Diocese of Yambio in Western Equitoria State is to build a Cathedral at a cost of half-a-million US dollars.


Speaking at the same function, Fr. Dr. Peter Moidie disclosed that the construction of the cathedral will cost 500,000 USD and that the Holy See had donated 200,000 USD. The rest will be raised locally."

Allafrica.com, May 4, 2007

Thousands of So. Koreans Training to 'Invade' No. Korea with Gospel

"One Christian, who asked not to be named, told me, "We believe that because of world pressure, North Korea will soon have to open up to get much-needed foreign currency and we have many ready and willing to move in there with the Good News of Jesus Christ. They are aware that the country could be open for just a short time, and then it will close tight again, and they will be trapped inside.
"But they are willing to be martyrs for the Gospel because they love the people of North Korea."

Crosswalk.com, 10 May 2007

It makes me sick. The North Korean people have been living under extreme conditions for such a long time, and now these vipers prepare to brainwash them even further.

[Theology] Original Sin in the Bible

"The first mention of the concept of Original Sin is found, not in Genesis, where the fatal event was supposed to happen, but in the fifth chapter of Romans, written by Paul. According to Paul, humanity was cursed because Adam sinned when he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.


At no point [in Genesis 3:14-19] do we see anything that might qualify as a curse of "Original Sin" to be handed down to all of Adam's descendants. Sure, their lives are supposed to become much more difficult than what they had heretofore experienced; but where in all of that is the "Sin" being passed along?


The rest of the Old Testament is of no help to Christian theology in this area: from this point in Genesis all of the way through the ending of Malachi, there isn't the slightest hint of there being any sort of Original Sin inherited by all humans through Adam. There are plenty of stories of God getting angry at humanity in general and at the Jews in particular, thus offering many opportunities for God to point out how everyone is "sinful" because of Adam. Yet we read nothing about that."

Atheism.about.com, May 5, 2007

[Ideology] Isn't Atheism the Same as Communism? Doesn't Atheism Lead to Communism?

"A common complaint made by theists, typically those of the fundamentalist variety, is that atheism and/or humanism are essentially socialist or communist in nature. Thus, atheism and humanism should be rejected since socialism and communism are evil. Evidence indicates that bigotry and prejudice towards atheists in America is due in no small part to anti-communist activism by conservatives Christians in America, so this claimed connection has had serious consequences for American atheists.


Communism is not, however, inherently atheistic. It is possible to hold communist or socialist economic views while being a theist and it isn't at all uncommon to be an atheist while staunchly defending capitalism — a combination often found among Objectivists and Libertarians, for example. Their existence alone demonstrates, without question, that atheism and communism are not the same thing."

Atheism.about.com, May 10, 2007

[Secularisation] Mina’s ex-Muslim group spawns a movement

"The Iranian women's rights and human rights activist Mina Ahadi, who founded the Central Committee of ex-Muslims in Germany, seems to have started a trend. Following her valiant example, activist in the Netherlands have set about founding their own organisation of ex-Muslims."

National Secular Society Fri, 11 May 2007

I might as well mention that there's a group of people trying to start such an organisation in Norway as well, although it seems they had some disagreements on policy (homosexuality and Israel was mentioned). Anyway, this development is welcome for two reasons: 1. It will diminish the possibility of the Fundamentalist and Conservative Muslims to speak on behalf of everyone with a Muslim background. 2. Europeans will feel less threatened by Muslims when we see that they are getting more secular.

[Theology] Little-Known Bible Verses VI: Slavery

"Civil rights leaders like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were famous for their use of biblical allusions to demand liberty for all human beings, and from their writings, many believers today have gotten the idea that the Bible teaches the equality of all people. But nothing could be farther from the truth, as we can see from a set of little-known Bible verses.


"The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. —Luke 12:46-47"


"These verses and others like them were not overlooked by slaveholders of the American antebellum. On the contrary, in the period leading up to the American Civil War, Southern slaveholders repeatedly cited these verses against abolitionists, as proof that slavery was a just and proper institution sanctioned by God."

Daylightatheism.org 10 May 2007

[History] The National Day of Prayer

"The bill creating this national observance was signed into law in 1952 by President Harry Truman, and another bill fixing its date as the first Thursday in May was signed in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. [...] Sadly, America has become blind to the wisdom of great men like Thomas Jefferson, who specifically refused to proclaim a national day of fasting and prayer when he was president:

"I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them, an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands where the Constitution has deposited it… Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.""

Daylightatheism.org 10 May 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

[Science] Is doing the right thing hard-wired?

"What gives people the ability to tell right from wrong? Is the moral sense instilled in us by God? Is it inculcated through religious training? Or does moral judgment vary according to the culture in which we were raised?


Another important building block in the evolution of a moral sense is cooperation, which takes three different forms in the animal world. The first is cooperation based on kinship. An animal that sacrifices to benefit its offspring, for example, helps to protect their shared genes. In the second type, both individuals receive some cost, but both benefit. Cooperative hunting behavior is an example of this type. The third and rarest type is reciprocity, where an individual gives something up with the expectation that it will receive benefit in the future. The Golden Rule, Hauser said, is a formulation in human terms of this adaptation."

Harvard University Gazette, May 3, 2007

If you've read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins then this is familiar, because he refers to Hauser's work there (on page 222 and onwards to be exact).

Update: Another interview with Marc Hauser

[Stats] How many has God killed? (Complete list and estimated total)

"In a previous post, I've listed and counted God's killings in the Bible. But I only included those that said exactly how many were killed by God. I came up with 2,270,365.

But that didn't include some of God's most impressive slaughters. How many did God drown in the flood or burn to death in Sodom and Gomorrah? How many first-born Egyptians did he kill? The Bible doesn't say, so there's no way to know for sure. But it's possible to provide rough estimates in order to get a grand total, and that's what I'm attempting here. (New total: 32.9 million.) "

dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com, 13 January 2007

[Stats] Bell tolls for Germany's churches

"A recent study by Dresdner Bank predicted that in the coming years, 50% of Germany's churches may close or be turned into other uses. The nation's Roman Catholic Church is expected to stop services in 700 of its 24,500 churches by 2015."

latimes.com, April 22, 2007

[Stats] Religion, tax-evasion and violence top list of ad complaints

"Consumers complained about a record number of adverts last year -- including those of a gay association, government department and fashion giant.


An advert by the Gay Police Association -- picturing a Bible to highlight religious motivation behind homophobic incidents -- was the most maligned.
It attracted 553 complaints, with people finding it offensive to Christians and discriminatory in tone."

Scotsman.com 09-May-07
Discriminatory in tone?

Leviticus: 20:13 "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
Much better and not discriminatory in tone!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

[Study] Mothers Spiritually Active; Fathers Lag Behind

"Mothers are among the most spiritually active segments of the America population, a new study found. They also outpace fathers in spiritual activity and commitment for the most part.
The Barna research group revealed that three-quarters of women who are raising children said faith is very important in their life while only two-thirds of fathers agreed. The majority of mothers also said they have been greatly transformed by their faith compared to less than half of fathers.


Additionally, mothers were more likely than fathers to be born-again Christians, to say they are absolutely committed to Christianity, and to embrace a personal responsibility to share their faith in Jesus Christ with others.


The Barna study further measured differences between younger and older mothers. Moms from the Buster generation (ages 23-41) show less passion for spirituality and less commitment to Christianity than moms from the Boomer generation (ages 42-60). Young moms are less likely to volunteer to help at a church, to read the Bible or to attend worship services at a church and they are less inclined to describe their faith as very important in their life compared to Boomer moms."

Christian Post, Mon, May. 07 2007

I think perhaps some feminists need to realize that women help fuelling the system they criticize.

Monday, May 7, 2007

[Comment] Those fanatical atheists

"Then there's the problem on the other side -- among the atheists such as Richard Dawkins who have been labelled "fanatics." Now, it is absolutely true that Dawkins' tone is often as charming as fingernails dragged slowly down a chalkboard. But just what is the core of Dawkins' radical message?

Well, it goes something like this: If you claim that something is true, I will examine the evidence which supports your claim; if you have no evidence, I will not accept that what you say is true and I will think you a foolish and gullible person for believing it so.

That's it. That's the whole, crazy, fanatical package."

Dan Gardiner, The Ottawa Citizen, May 05, 2007

An excellent comment!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

[stats] Norway: 68 percent skeptical to religious organisations

Some good news here. There's been conducted a national survey on integration of immigrants in Norway(by the Dept. of Integration), and part of it dealt with Norwegians' attitudes Islam. That question is a complex political question and I'll leave that alone here, but more immediately interesting for us was the control question on religious organisations in general which they asked.

Respondents are asked to rate how this statement fits to their own attitude:

"I am generally skeptical to religious organisations and communities/congregations"

Fits completely 33%
Fits pretty good: 35%
Fits pretty bad: 21%
Does not fit at all: 8%
No reply: 2%

Norwegian PDF ( page 63)

[Survey] Is There Disdain For Evangelicals In the Classroom?

"Tobin asked professors at all kinds of colleges -- public and private, secular and religious, two-year and four-year -- to rate their feelings toward various religious groups, from very warm or favorable to very cool or unfavorable. He said he designed the question primarily to gauge anti-Semitism but found that professors expressed positive feelings toward Jews, Buddhists, Roman Catholics and most other religious groups.
The only groups that elicited highly negative responses were evangelical Christians and Mormons.


Nelson, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the unfavorable feelings toward evangelical Christians probably have two causes: "the particular kind of Republican Party activism that some evangelicals have engaged in over the years, as well as what faculty perceive as the opposition to scientific objectivity among some evangelicals.""

Washington Post, May 5, 2007
A whining article (In the Moonie-owned Washington Post), but interesting nevertheless. It seems being anti-science does not give Evangelicals much credit in classrooms. Probably as little credit as science get in their churches.

[Psychology] Appaling acts in God's name

"The [Catholic] priest who hears confessions encounters a wide range of sexual practices, ranging from adultery to homosexuality, and masturbation to zoophilia. Do we really understand and appreciate the force of this knowledge on a priest whose sexual experience is limited? Isn't this something like the experiment in which people are instructed not to think about a white elephant, and who then find themselves unable to avoid thinking of that elephant? "

Nielsen, M. E. (2003). Appalling acts in god's name. Society, 40(3), 16-19.

Friday, May 4, 2007

[Warning] US evangelicals aim to influence European law

”—In Britain, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), an organization founded by American evangelical leaders, is funding a lawsuit brought by a Christian man who was fired for refusing to work on Sunday. It is also helping to develop the legal strategy.
—In Sweden, ADF played a key role in persuading the Supreme Court to dismiss charges against Ake Green, a pastor who was convicted of hate-crime charges after he delivered a sermon in which he called gays a “deep cancerous tumor in the entire society.”
—In Aruba and the Czech Republic, Pat Robertson’s legal organization, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), helped defeat bills that would have legalized same-sex unions.
—In France, ACLJ affiliate ECLJ (the European Center for Law and Justice), is staging a legal challenge against an antisect law that it says is being used to clamp down on evangelical Christian churches.
—And on the European Union level, ECLJ is lobbying to block funding for embryonic stem-cell research.”

Oh, and use protection!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

[History] Humanism in Ancient Rome

Although much of what we regard as the ancient forerunners of humanism tend to be found in Greece, the original humanists of the European Renaissance first looked to the forerunners who were also their own ancestors: the Romans.


Like Epicurus, Lucretius sought to free humanity from the fear of death and of the gods, which he considered the primary cause of human unhappiness.


Lucretius insisted that the soul is not a distinct, immaterial entity but instead just a chance combination of atoms that does not survive the body. He also postulated purely natural causes for earthly phenomena in order to prove that the world is not directed by divine agency and that fear of the supernatural is consequently without reasonable foundation. Lucretius did not deny the existence of gods, but like Epicurus he conceived of them as having no concern with the affairs or destiny of mortals.

atheism.about.com, May 3, 2007

[Stats] Why the gods are not winning

"A myth is gaining ground. The myth seems plausible enough. The proposition is that after God died in the secular 20th century, He is back in a big way as people around the world again find faith. [...]

The evangelical authors of the WCE lament that no Christian "in 1900 expected the massive defections from Christianity that subsequently took place in Western Europe due to secularism…. and in the Americas due to materialism…. The number of nonreligionists…. throughout the 20th century has skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900, to 697 million in 1970, and on to 918 million in AD 2000…. Equally startling has been the meteoritic growth of secularism…. Two immense quasi-religious systems have emerged at the expense of the world's religions: agnosticism…. and atheism…. From a miniscule presence in 1900, a mere 0.2% of the globe, these systems…. are today expanding at the extraordinary rate of 8.5 million new converts each year, and are likely to reach one billion adherents soon. A large percentage of their members are the children, grandchildren or the great-great-grandchildren of persons who in their lifetimes were practicing Christians""

edge.org May 1 , 2007

[Stats] Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World

"This map reflects the fact that a large number of basic values are closely correlated; they can be depicted in just major two dimensions of cross-cultural variation."

Quick explanation: Sweden good, Zimbabwe bad. You'll find the most religious and traditionalist countries at the bottom here.
A bit overwhelming, but when you've read the accompanying text and studied the map for a while it start making sense!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

[Stats] Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns

"Assessing rates of belief or disbelief among large populations is extremely difficult. Determining what percentage of a given society believes in God – or doesn’t -- is fraught with methodological difficulties, most importantly: 1) low response rates, 2) non-random samples, 3) adverse political or cultural climates, and 4) problematic cross-cultural terminology. A brief discussion of each is warranted before presenting an accumulation of statistics concerning rates and patterns of atheism worldwide.


According to Inglehart et al (2004), 31% of those in Norway do not believe in God. According to Bondeson (2003), 54% of Norwegians said that they did not believe in “a personal God.” According to Greeley (2003), 41% of Norwegians do not believe in God, although only 10% self-identify as “atheist.” According to Gustafsson and Pettersson (2002), 72% of Norwegians do not believe in a “personal God.” According to Froese (2001), 45% of Norwegians are either atheist or agnostic."

This chapter is forth-coming in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2005

A very thorough summary! Being Norwegian I took out the part about Norway as an example.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

[Islam] "Misguided women"

"The ninjas. The burqa brigade. The women in black. For some years now I've been hearing such terms thrown around with disdain by "burqa-unfriendly" sections of Pakistani society to describe the women who swathe themselves entirely in black.


Then, in March, dozens of girls from Jamia Hafsa kidnapped three women and a baby from a house they claimed was a brothel. Next they kidnapped two policemen. Newspaper front pages were splashed with pictures of the ninjas chasing away plain-clothes policemen while wielding long sticks. They have also taken to patrolling the bazaars, threatening the owners of DVD and CD stores, which they claim spread pornography and vice."

New Statesman 30 April 2007
In short: Islamic Hitler Jugend for girls

[History] The European Witch-Hunts, c. 1450-1750 and Witch-Hunts Today

"[...] the clash between institutional Catholicism and emergent Protestantism contributed to the collapse of a stable world-view, which eventually led to panic and hyper-suspiciousness on the part of Catholic and Protestant authorities alike.


This helps us understand why only the most rapidly developing countries, where the Catholic church was weakest, experienced a virulent witch craze (i.e., Germany, France, Switzerland). Where the Catholic church was strong (Spain, Italy, Portugal) hardly any witch craze occurred ... the Reformation was definitely the first time that the church had to cope with a large-scale threat to its very existence and legitimacy."


It is notable that the witch-hunts lost most of their momentum with the end of the Thirty Years War (Peace of Westphalia, 1648), which "gave official recognition and legitimacy to religious pluralism."


[History] The Role of Islam in African Slavery (Pt 1)

"Although the law required owners to treat slaves well and provide medical treatment, a slave had no right to be heard in court (testimony was forbidden by slaves), had no right to property, could marry only with permission of their owner, and was considered to be a chattel, that is the (moveable) property, of the slave owner.


Slaves were obtained through conquest, tribute from vassal states (in the first such treaty, Nubia was required to provide hundreds of male and female slaves), offspring (children of slaves were also slaves, but since many slaves were castrated this was not as common as it had been in the Roman empire), and purchase. The latter method provided the majority of slaves, and at the borders of the Islamic Empire vast number of new slaves were castrated ready for sale (Islamic law did not allow mutilation of slaves, so it was done before they crossed the border)."

Africanhistory.about.com April 25, 2007 (follow link for pt2)