Sunday, September 30, 2007

Christian Supremacy: Pushing the Dhimmitude of Non-Christians in America

"What is Christian Supremacy?:
In America, the notion of Christian Supremacy encompasses both a moral attitude and a political program. In the moral realm, Christian Supremacy is the idea that Christianity is superior to all other religions, and by extension, that Christians are superior to all non-Christians. Politically, Christian Supremacy is an agenda to get America's political institutions to reflect this superiority by favoring Christians over non-Christians and Christianity over all other beliefs.

What is Dhimmitude?:
Dhimmi is a Muslim classification for members of any tolerated religion, like Jews and Christians, living in a Muslim nation and under Muslim law. Dhimmis are allowed to exist and to practice their religion, but they are not allowed to proselytize or otherwise make trouble — thus they have fewer legal rights than Muslims. Christian Supremacists would reduce non-Christians in America to an inferior status analogous to dhimmis in Muslim lands."

atheism.about.com, 29. September 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What's wrong with the religious right?

"Now, less than four years after widespread declarations that the religious right had taken over the Republican Party, these social conservatives seem almost powerless to influence its nomination process.
It isn’t because they lack numbers. Pollster Tony Fabrizio has documented that moralists remain the biggest slice of GOP voters. More than a third of 2004 votes for President Bush were cast by evangelicals.
Yet organizations designed to mobilize these voters have atrophied. The Christian Coalition is a shadow of its former self. Efforts to relaunch the defunct Moral Majority haven’t fared much better. Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy are dead, Pat Robertson past his prime.

[...]

When The Washington Post once described religious conservatives as largely “poor, uneducated and easy to command,” evangelicals protested that they weren’t poor or uneducated. Now, neither are they easy to command."

Politico.com, Sep 24, 2007
Good news!

Monkeys show sense of justice

"Researchers taught brown capuchin monkeys to swap tokens for food. Usually they were happy to exchange this "money" for cucumber.
But if they saw another monkey getting a grape - a more-liked food - they took offence. Some refused to work, others took the food and refused to eat it.
Scientists say this work suggests that human's sense of justice is inherited and not a social construct.
[...]
The researchers were not surprised that the monkeys showed a sense of fairness, but they were taken aback that they would turn down an otherwise acceptable reward.
"They never showed a reaction against their partner, they never blamed them," Sarah Brosnan said."

BBC.co.uk, 17 September, 2003
A few years old story, but it was recently posted at Dawkins' site and is no less important now.

Low productivity during Ramadan

"Performance in most companies, institutions and government departments around the Arab world is usually at a low during the month of Ramadan, with poor productivity and constant reported absences. Dubai sought to change this concept through restructuring the day, turning Ramadan nights into meeting times to complete the unfinished work; but low productivity remained a feature of this month.

[...]

constant absence had become a feature during Ramadan because of the wrong perception that this month was a month for rest, when it was in fact the month of worship and hard work.

[...]

Meanwhile, Dr. Musa'ab Al-Zubair described Ramadan as a "month of medical reports" where most employees resort to sick leaves as a good alibi which indeed negatively affects work productivity."

Kuwait Times/Kuna September 24, 2007
Maybe they are just too devout to work, or maybe they really aren't feeling too well after all. Here's an interesting blogpost by a former Muslim who finally enjoys normal eating during Raman:

"I couldn't concentrate in school. I had nasty heart burn all morning, because we'd wake up at an ungodly hour to gorge! [...] There are many women in my life and some of them are extremely old with various medical conditions. They all feel compelled to fast. It drives me insane!"

Real Atheism Requires Omniscience?

"Myth: The only logical basis for atheism is to know everything — in other words, to be God!
[...]
However, such knowledge is not necessary in order to make other negative statements. Examples of this latter type include "no married bachelors exist" or "no round squares exist." We can prove each of them with logic, primarily based upon the definitions of the terms involved. To assert the opposite of either statement entails asserting something which is incoherent — and we are rationally justified in denying something incoherent. If an atheist believes that the statement "God exists" is similarly incoherent, then that atheist can say "no god exists" with certainty and without being ominscient."

atheism.about.com, 20. September 2007
Some more reasons given. It's a must-read if you're unfamiliar with the issue.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Why are we Muslims so self-destructive?

At an ifthar (breaking of fast) gathering last week, Rahim, a handsome young Muslim doctor and I chatted about this and that, and the end of our world: "Do you think refined and educated Muslims will survive this century? Or will we become extinct? I feel I don't know who I am any more. My parents, too, say the same. Barbaric Muslims are stronger than us, more stupid and ignorant, but stronger, you know."

[...]

Look today at India and Pakistan, neighbours, twin nations with identical histories and values. While the former is poised to challenge the economic and cultural power of the West, the latter is imploding and joins the ever-growing club of failed Muslim states. India has shameful problems – extreme poverty, corruption, greed, the caste system, Islamophobia and misogynist cultural practices – but, unlike Pakistan, it also has a free press and democracy, and its population understands the importance of education and enlightenment.
Come to our isles and the same stark contrast emerges. British Asians of Indian background (including Muslims from India) are top of the league tables in schools, universities, business and the professions. They are mentally agile, inquisitive, and encouraged to strive by their families. With some individual exceptions, British Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds languish at the bottom of all indicator tables. It is heartbreaking."

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Independent, 24 September 2007

Atheism: teaching a taboo

"McCormick is teaching the first atheism class ever offered at Sacramento State. And the topic, he said, makes some uncomfortable, even hateful.
"Some recent polls show that atheists are the most reviled people in American society, even more than homosexuals and minority groups… That all suggests that we've got some irrational and dangerous commitments surrounding the topic of God," McCormick said.

[...]

He took the initiative to write the proposal for his new atheism class, even though he says he did get "a few raised eyebrows" along the way. Philosophy Chair Thomas Pyne, a colleague and a church-goer, said "I was for it (the class)...it's certainly a live issue right now."

The State Hornet, 9/19/07
He also has his own blog here: Atheism: Proving The Negative

In a sense I would say that all scientific roads lead to Atheism by undermining traditional religious views and constantly offering a materialistic view, but I think that a course like this can be good to stop the demonizing that exists some places.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity

"A new study by The Barna Group conducted among 16- to 29-year-olds shows that a new generation is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago.

[...]

The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. [...] Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.

[...]

Their perceptions about Christianity were not always accurate, but what surprised me was not only the severity of their frustration with Christians, but also how frequently young born again Christians expressed some of the very same comments as young non-Christians."

[...]

"Going into this three-year project, I assumed that people’s perceptions were generally soft, based on misinformation, and would gradually morph into more traditional views. But then, as we probed why young people had come to such conclusions, I was surprised how much their perceptions were rooted in specific stories and personal interactions with Christians and in churches. When they labeled Christians as judgmental this was not merely spiritual defensiveness. It was frequently the result of truly ‘unChristian’ experiences. We discovered that the descriptions that young people offered of Christianity were more thoughtful, nuanced, and experiential than expected."

Barna Group, September 24, 2007
No excerpt can do this survey justice, so better read the whole article!
You can even buy the book:
"The study of Christianity’s slipping image is explored in a new book, entitled unChristian, by David Kinnaman, the president of The Barna Group. The study is a result of collaboration between Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Religion, culture behind Texas execution tally

"Like his predecessor, Governor Perry is a devout Christian, highlighting one key factor in Texas' enthusiasm for the death penalty that many outsiders find puzzling -- the support it gets from conservative evangelical churches.
This is in line with their emphasis on individuals taking responsibility for their own salvation, and they also find justification in scripture.
"A lot of evangelical Protestants not only believe that capital punishment is permissible but that it is demanded by God. And they see sanction for that in the Old Testament especially," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas."

Scotsman, 13 Aug 2007
See also this post: Death Penalty and religious affiliation in USA

Cult Plus Time Equals Religion

For the most part, the only difference between a "real religion" and a "cult" is longevity--a distinction that also applies to governments. If enough people believe in some form of the supernatural for a long enough period of time, we stop calling it a cult and start calling it a religion. Religions are cults that last.

[...]

One of the main reasons why it is a mistake to call atheism, freethought, or secular humanism "just another religion" is that unfettered inquiry is the basis of the secular worldview. Free inquiry is the mortal enemy of all controlling religions. Of course, secular ideologies such as Stalinist Communism can become controlling religions too, since they take on the imperviousness to evidence that is the ultimate expression of religious fanaticism. But that has nothing to do with the open-minded secularism, rooted in the Enlightenment, that is the basis of freethought today. Fear and loathing of intellectual challenge is the essence of all controlling religious factions, whether the God is called Stalin, Jehovah, or Allah.

[...]

Christian societies, of course, used to kill people for blasphemy. But time--and the rise of the great separation between church and state pioneered by the United States of America--has turned most of the Christian world away from the dogmas of controlling religion. But don't call this "real" religion, as distinct from a cult. It is simply religion moderated by secular knowledge and secular government.

Susan Jacoby, On Faith, 19. September 2007

"Cultural relativism makes me sick"

"Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), is known for his anti-Islamic remarks, his striking blonde mane and the many death threats he has received. It's less well known that he spent most of his time on a kibbutz chasing girls and once named Syria as his favourite holiday destination. He even watches Arabic television channels every evening."

Radionetherlands.nl, 11-09-2007
He's a controversial character, but from this interview it's at least quite clear that he has done more homework than many others.

Faith schools 'cherry picking'

Faith schools are 'cherry picking' too many children from affluent families and contributing to racial and religious segregation, according to the most extensive research of its kind, based on the government's own data.

[...]

Their research showed 17 per cent of pupils at faith schools are eligible for free school meals compared with 25 per cent at non-religious schools. Faith schools educate just under 20 per cent of lowest-ability pupils compared with 31 per cent of non-religious schools. Faith schools also educate a greater proportion of the pupils who score highest before arriving in secondary education.
'This research poses important questions for policymakers,' West said. 'My concern is that the [current system] is giving schools an incentive to select pupils who are easier to teach.'

Guardian, September 16, 2007

Tension between Sunnis, Shiites emerging in USA

"For years, Sunnis and Shiites in this country have worked together to build mosques, support charities, register voters and hold massive feasts for Eid al-Fitr (on Oct. 13 this year in the USA), the celebration at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Now there are small signs of tension emerging in America's Muslim community that are raising concerns among many of its leaders. They worry that the bitter divisions that have caused so much bloodshed abroad are beginning to have an impact here. Such concerns are rising at a time when the USA's Muslim community has grown from less than 1 million in 1990 to nearly 2.5 million today, with two of three Muslims born overseas, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.
"You have people who recently arrived from other places where things may have gotten out of hand," says Sheik Hamza Yusuf, the U.S.-born co-founder of the nation's first Muslim seminary, the Zaytuna Institute, in Berkeley, Calif. "It takes just one deranged person with a cousin back home who died in a suicide bombing to create trouble here."

USA Today, 24. September 2007

Elite college students score poorly on history survey

"The study, titled "Failing our Students, Failing America: Holding Colleges Accountable for Teaching America's History and Institutions," found that college students across the country-including those at some of the nation's top colleges-demonstrate a lack of civic knowledge.

[...]

Harvard University seniors scored the highest with an average of 69.56 percent, and [Roman Catholic] St. Thomas University seniors did worst with an average of 32.5 percent. Duke seniors scored an average of 63.41 percent, ranking ninth in the study.

[...]

In addition, less than half knew [...] that the Bill of Rights prevents the United States from establishing an official religion.

The Chronicle, 9/21/07

Love comes first in childraising

"ONLY 25 per cent of parents think it is important to teach their children "respect for authority", a survey shows.
The survey, which asked parents which values they considered most important in raising their children, also found only 3 per cent valued religion.
Parents rated love and affection as the most important family value, with more than four in five placing it first.
TV channel Nick Jr polled more than 1,000 parents for the survey.
Findings showed younger parents are less likely to be disciplinarians than their older counterparts.
They also take a much keener interest in their children's education.
One in five 16-24-year-olds said academic achievement was a top priority, while only 3.5 per cent of 55-year-olds said the same."

Coventry Telegraph, Sep 20 2007

Study: Men Lack Church Support

"With churches struggling to keep men in the pews and women more likely than men to attend church, the Commission on United Methodist Men conducted the Study of Men report, surveying 1,350 people –a sample reflecting the demographics of the total number of men in the United Methodist Church.
The top reason why the church doesn't reach many men is a lack of interest in religion, survey respondents said they believe. [? I'm not sure I understand this sentence.] They also listed "societal emphasis on individualism/materialism" and "distrust of organized religion" as common reasons churches struggle to reach men.

[...]

Only 27.2 percent of the men have a close male friend that knows or supports them and 68 percent said that the senior pastor could do more to support men in the congregation."

Christian Post, Sep. 20 2007
See also this post on why men's views are crucial.

Religion affects behaviour

"After the Baylor Religion Survey, American Piety in the 21st Century, was released last September, two sociology professors were intrigued by the findings and decided to write a new book, Who is Your God?

[...]

Some people interviewed had very strong religious beliefs, but when they were asked to speak about it, they weren't very eloquent Froese said. Those who didn't care much about religion could eloquently express their opinion. [...] Another interesting discovery was that beliefs matter and have a clear, distinct role in other aspects of people's lives. For example, those who have a concrete vision of God also have a very concrete understanding of right and wrong, making them more prone to respect authorities. They are more likely to support the death penalty and the war in Iraq.
People who have an abstract concept of God tend to decide for themselves the difference between good and evil.
"These seemingly abstract theological beliefs have a real world manifest in the sense that they affect behavior," Froese said. "Based on their beliefs is how they act."
The more highly educated a person is, Dougherty said, the more likely that person will see God as distant. He added that people who seek higher education don't see God as engaged in their lives. They want to take action themselves and not depend on God to solve problems. [...] "Baylor University is an example of educated people with Ph. Ds. who also view God as an engaged God," Dougherty said."

The Baylor Lariat, Sept. 25, 2007
That religion affects behaviour is quite obvious, but further, this means that religion is politics, and that there's no such thing as religion being merely a private matter. Well, not anymore than being Republican or Communist. It is a view that you hold that affects your surroundings, and your surroundings may have legitimate reservations to the effects of your views.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Is ‘Do Unto Others’ Written Into Our Genes?

"Where do moral rules come from? From reason, some philosophers say. From God, say believers. Seldom considered is a source now being advocated by some biologists, that of evolution.
At first glance, natural selection and the survival of the fittest may seem to reward only the most selfish values. But for animals that live in groups, selfishness must be strictly curbed or there will be no advantage to social living."

New York Times, September 18, 2007
See also some of my previous posts:
This, this, this, and this.

Was John Paul II Euthanized?

"In a provocative article, an Italian medical professor argues that Pope John Paul II didn't just simply slip away as his weakness and illness overtook him in April 2005. Intensive care specialist Dr. Lina Pavanelli has concluded that the ailing Pope's April 2 death was caused by what the Catholic Church itself would consider euthanasia.

[...]

The failure to insert a feeding tube into the patient until just a few days before he died accelerated John Paul's death, Pavanelli concludes. Moreover, Pavanelli says she believes that the Pope's doctors dutifully explained the situation to him, and thus she surmises that it was the pontiff himself who likely refused the feeding tube after he'd been twice rushed to the hospital in February and March."

Time, Sep. 21, 2007

Io sono not so good in Italiano, but I believe this is a follow-up article in MicroMega by Lina Pavanelli.
La dolce morte di Papa Wojtyla. Una risposta

Good Cop, Bad Cop: Atheist Activism

"In addition, the street activists presented a more extreme, hard-line set of demands... which made the lobbyists and other negotiators seem more reasonable in comparison."

Greta Christina's Blog, September 19, 2007
You get the gist of it right here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nebraska Senator Sues God to Stop Terror Threats

"Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers filed suit against God Friday, asking a court to order the Almighty and his followers to stop making terrorist threats.
The suit (.pdf), filed in a Nebraska district court, contends that God, along with his followers of all persuasions, "has made and continues to make terroristic threats of grave harm to innumerable persons." Those threats are credible given God's history, Chambers' complaint says.
Chambers, in a fit of alliteration, also accuses God of causing "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects, and the like."

Likewise the suit accuses God of having his chroniclers "disseminate in written form, said admissions, throughout the Earth in order to inspire fear, dread, anxiety, terror and uncertainty, in order to coerce obedience to Defendant's will." [...]

The senator also wants the court to issue a permanent injunction prohibityin God from plagues and terrorist threats. [...]
Chambers does admit that God is omnipresent and omniscient, however. Since God is everywhere, the Nebraska court has jurisdiction, Chambers argues, and since God is all-knowing, Chambers need to serve him with a notice of the lawsuit."

Wired.com September 17, 2007

Haha, that's fucking excellent!

This is also a brilliant opportunity to plug the film: The Man Who Sued God. I saw it earlier, and it had some very nice court scenes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What Part Of “Secular Nation” Do We Not Understand?

"Significant numbers of Americans express support for government sponsorship of the majority religion, especially in public schools:

58% want teacher-led prayers in schools.
43% endorse school holiday programs that are entirely Christian and devotional.
50% would allow public school teachers to teach the Bible as a “factual text” in history classes.

Despite the fact that all of the above are unconstitutional under current law, many people see nothing wrong – and much right – with school officials privileging or even endorsing the Christian faith.
Transpose the location (or substitute another religion) and the result would surely be very different. Would Americans support the creation of an Iraqi state where the majority Shiites imposed their prayers, religious celebrations, and scriptures on all Iraqi schoolchildren? Not likely.
On the contrary, we send young Americans to fight for an Iraq where people of all faiths will be protected from state-imposed religion. Why? Because we understand that (however quixotic the quest) only a secular democracy in Iraq with no established faith will guarantee religious freedom – and end sectarian strife."

Charles C. Haynes, North Country Gazette, 12 of September, 2007

Re: Kathy Griffin - Censoring anti-religious comments could be used to restrict religion

"Suppressing secular or anti-religious commentary will set a precedent that could be used to restrict religious content. People of faith are already losing the "war on Christmas." Retailers, municipalities and even the White House opt for the politically correct term "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."If we continue to demand the silencing of Griffin and others who don't believe as we believe, we run the risk of losing many more battles.
Under the Constitution, Griffin has as much a right to say Jesus had nothing to do with her statuette as her colleagues do to thank God for theirs."

Corey Hodges (senior pastor), Salt Lake Tribune, 09/14/2007
Update:
"Nearly 5,000 people to date have signed an online petition opposing the censoring of Kathy Griffin's remarks for the 2007 Emmy Awards. Obviously, it is too late to change the censorship, but it is still a great way to show support for Griffin. I think I'd get one of these stickers, but I'd hate to have to remove my f@$% the skull of Jesus sign to make room."

atheistrevolution.blogspot.com, 23. september 2007

The abomination of sectarian schooling

"How on earth can anybody argue that separating children on the basis of their parents’ religion helps them understand each other? All the evidence shows that if you want to break down the destructive and dangerous barriers of race and religion, children from different cultures have to be educated together – on a daily basis – from a very early age. Unless this is done, as well as being inculcated with their parents’ “faith”, they are more likely also to inherit their parents’ prejudices and sectarian tendencies."

Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society, 14. September, 2007

52 per cent say “no” to faith schools and religious symbols

"Muslim headscarves, crucifixes and Sikh bangles should be banned at schools unless they can be incorporated into the dress code, most parents polled in a survey by Reader’s Digest said. Eighty-three per cent feel such religious symbols are unacceptable, while more than half (52 per cent) of parents also disapprove of faith schools, according to the poll by Reader’s Digest."

National Secular Society, 14. September 2007

Is Prince Harry an atheist?

"One of the more startling revelations at last week’s tenth anniversary memorial service for Princess Diana was that her second son, Prince Harry, had declined to give a religious reading, as his elder brother had done, and elected instead to make a personal eulogy.
What can we discern from this? That Harry simply wanted to say something about the person who was supposedly at the heart of this event — his mother — or that, like so many other people in Britain, he feels indifferent or even antipathetic towards the church and religion? Could it be that, (please don’t listen granny Betty), Prince Harry doesn’t regard Jesus as a personal friend?
What kind of constitutional crisis would be precipitated if a self-confessed atheist ascended the throne? It isn’t impossible – Harry is only third in line. Could a non-believer be the head of the Church of England? (What do you mean, he wouldn’t be the first?) I think we should be told."

National Secular Society, 7. September 2007
Slightly better news than our own Princess who talks to angels through horses!

Methinks the believers complain too much

"John Humphrys has commissioned a poll from Yougov to help him sell his new book, In God We Doubt. It shows that 16% of the 2,200 people who responded defined themselves as atheists, 9% agnostics, 28% said they believed in God and 26% said they believed in some undefined “something”.
That comes to a total of 79%. The article reporting the poll didn’t say where the other 21% stood on the belief/non-belief spectrum.
42% thought religion harmful, a statistic which Humphrys explains away with a remark so obvious one wonders why he bothered to make it: “One reason might be the publicity attracted by a handful of mad mullahs and their hate-filled rhetoric.”

[...]

And when spokespeople for the 35% who don’t believe begin to emerge – people like Richard Dawkins, Peter Hitchens, AC Grayling and others – they are denounced from the pulpits and the newspaper columns as “fanatics” and “extremists”. There is a positive library of newspaper articles accumulating expressing this opinion.

[...]

What started out as a campaign by fundamentalist Christians to make the word “atheist” into a term of abuse, which could not be uttered without the addition of an adjective such as “extremist” or “fundamentalist”, has now been taken up big time by the establishment intelligentsia who have never been able to shake off their childhood indoctrination. It’s clear they feel guilty when they even try."


Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society, 7. September 2007
An excellent comment!

Nearly half of British teenagers are atheists

"Nearly half of teenagers in Britain are atheists, according to a new Mori poll commissioned by the British Library.

43% of 16–19 year olds say they have no faith. In those over 20 it is 20%, and that goes down to 8% in the 65+ age group. Overall, 21% of the 2,030 people questioned say they have no faith. Of those who do not follow a religion, around one third say they used to be Christian (32%), while three in five have never followed a religion in the past (58%).

[...]

Muslims are much more likely to see religion as "relevant to their life" than Christians (95% vs. 54%), with fewer than half of the people polled saying this overall (43%). The 16–19 year olds are most likely to describe religion as "not relevant" (72% vs. 54% of those aged 20+). Nearly a quarter of those polled say that religion is relevant at all times in their lives (23%); this increases to a third among those aged 65+ (33%) , but falls to 14% among 16–19 year olds . Around a quarter of all people asked say that religion is never relevant (23%)."

National Secular Society, 14. September 2007

America's Double Trouble

"After all, only seven percent of American adults are scientifically literate and only one in five college graduates makes that mark, according to a 1998 report on "civic scientific literacy" by Jon D. Miller of Northwestern University Medical School. American fifteen-year-olds rank behind their peers in twenty-two other countries—including the Netherlands, Poland, and South Korea—in scientific knowledge, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And last year's report from the National Science Foundation indicates that the public's scientific knowledge hasn't improved since the 1990s—though it did in almost every European country surveyed."

Science & Spirit, 9. Sept 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Apologetic defenses

"Needless to say, some apologists for the Bible have spent an inordinate amount of time devising a wide variety of rationalizations to defend religion in general and the Bible in particular against these kinds of problems. In any encounter with the Bible's defenders, knowing apologetic arguments beforehand is very important, because a few biblicists are knowledgeable and can handle themselves better than most. Atheists and other freethinkers must not only know their material but also be aware of the arguments most often used on a regular basis by the opposition."

C. Dennis McKinsey, American Atheist, 1997
Old article, but well worth reading!

By The Numbers

28 percent of atheists have post-graduate degrees or professional training, vs. 15 percent of non-atheists.
3 percent of atheists are "strong Republicans," vs. 16 percent of non-atheists.
Atheists have an average of 1.3 children, non-atheists 1.95.

Star Tribune, September 15, 2007 (2005 Baylor University Religion Survey and Barna Group)

NGOs gagged again at UN Human Rights Council

IHEU was prevented from speaking this week following the Special Rapporteur on Racism, Doudou Diene's report on "Islamophobia". Only four NGOs were able to speak in the total of 10 minutes allotted to NGOs. NGO participation at the HRC is becoming more myth than reality. IHEU's representative will be writing formally to the president of the Council asking for, as a minimum, the right to submit written statements when denied the chance to speak.
The statement that IHEU would have made, if it had been given the chance, follows. It was on behalf of IHEU and three other NGOs. It refers to two major omissions from the Special Rapporteur on Racism, Doudou Diene's analysis of "Islamophobia".

International Humanist and Ethical Union, 16 September, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Unravelled Threads

""And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Matthew 27)"

Needless to say, there is no historical record of such an astonishing event, and no other book in the Bible so much as mentions it - a stunning omission, considering this easily qualifies as the most spectacular miracle of the New Testament. Yet if we are to believe Christian apologists who say that every word of the Bible is true, this mass resurrection really did happen, and then sank into obscurity without a ripple and was forgotten. Not a single person who witnessed it felt compelled to write it down or make any record. Nor does any Christian evangelist of the first several centuries ever refer to it in their preaching."

Daylight Atheism, 12, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

There's no denying it... faith schools divide

"Bizarrely, these schools are actually commended for adopting corrective measures to deal with a problem – ignorance of other cultures and faiths – that they have themselves aggravated. Instead of studying alongside children of different faiths and cultures, experiencing from day to day the countless things they have in common, pupils will be introduced to other faiths as part of the curriculum – effectively as an exercise in comparative anthropology. And, as I say, not one hard fact that supports the case – just a string of bland truisms and pious assurances. I suppose we're just meant to take the rest on faith."

Thomas Sutcliffe, Independent, 11 September 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Islamic evolution

"Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring."

Encounter (ABC Radio transcript) 11 June 2006
So who wrote this? Darwin? Dawkins? No, an Islamic scholar called al-Jahiz (781–868/869) in the book Kitab al-Hayawan (Book of Animals). The Islamic golden age was surely impressive and is quite a contrast to the appalling conditions that Muslims today live under. The worst thing is that many Muslims today seem to think that the Golden Age mysteriously will come back with a little more Koran reading. But it wasn't Muhammed who made the Golden Age. He thought humans were made out of clay.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Religion at work: A growing number of discrimination cases center on employees' beliefs

""It's coming up a lot more," said the Downtown-based employment lawyer. "Until 2001, I bet I didn't have more than one a year."

[...]

Nationally, religious discrimination charges by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission rose from 1,939 in 2000 to 2,572 in 2002 and have remained roughly at that level ever since. In 2006, the EEOC reported 2,541 charges of religious discrimination.
"There are far more of them than you read about," said John Myers, chair of the labor and employment department at Downtown-based law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott. "In 25 years, I never had a case involving an Islamic employee and in the last couple of years, I've observed more decisions and personally picked up a handful of cases.""

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 28, 2007
Atheist seeks job
Can work any day. No religious dress code.
Will behave if you behave.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Was Jesus gay?

"The late Morton Smith, of Columbia University reported in 1958 that he had found a fragment of a manuscript which at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem. It contained the full text of Mark, chapter 10. Apparently the version that is in the Christian Scriptures is an edited version of the original. Additional verses allegedly formed part of the full version of Mark, and were inserted after verse 34. It discusses how a young man, naked but for a linen covering, expressed his love for Jesus and stayed with him at his place all night."

Religioustolerance.org
I've often thought that speculating on whether or not Jesus was gay was, well, speculative. However, gay or not, this article with pro et contra was quite interesting!

Islam vs. Science

"Hoodbhoy marshals an array of data to demonstrate that the commitment to real scientific study and research in Muslim nations still lags far behind international averages.

[...]

"If the scientific method is trashed, no amount of resources or loud declarations of intent to develop science can compensate. In those circumstances, scientific research becomes, at best, a kind of cataloging or 'butterfly-collecting' activity. It cannot be a creative process of genuine inquiry in which bold hypotheses are made and checked.""

USNews.com 9/2/07

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The OUT campaign

As observant readers will notice, I've slapped that A of The OUT Campaign on the blog.
Being a typical Atheist cat (one that can't be herded) I don't feel so strong about neither the A nor the actual campaign itself in its current shape, but I am feeling strongly about spreading the message of Atheism. And I therefore reckon that the more A's that are around, the better.
Richard Dawkins & co have made a tremendous effort in pushing Atheism. Dawkins could probably have chosen to be just an uncontroversial professor in a dusty office with lots of books on biology, writing the occasional piece on the problems of Creationism. Instead, he has taken on the world religions with full force!
In appreciation of this effort, and in the interest of mankind, I urge all blogs to say:



An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science

"Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. [...] We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as "one theory among others" is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. [...] We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge.

[...]

Signatures are current as of 5 September 2007
10,900 signatures collected to date"

Not bad.