Saturday, June 30, 2007

Religious Education gives distorted view

"A major new report from Ofsted, the schools inspection body, says that the Religious Education guidelines published in 2004 have failed to make the subject relevant to modern life and don't properly explore the issues. The report says that pupils should be given a more sophisticated understanding of religion's role in the world. Teaching should take a "warts and all" approach that acknowledges that religion can be a force for evil as well as good. "Pupils should be taught that religion is complex," says the report, "and should be given the opportunity to explore that ambiguity."
The report, Making Sense of Religion, found the teaching of Christianity was "often much less rigorous and more fragmented" than carefully sequenced units of work on other faiths. "Work on specific aspects of Christianity, such as the life of Jesus or the Bible, is isolated from an investigation of the religion itself." GCSE syllabuses paid little attention to issues related to religion's role and significance in contemporary Britain.


When the guidelines were first published by the QCA, the NSS condemned them as "a charter for indoctrination". We said at the time that they did not explore all sides of religious influence in the world, bad and good, but were more like a tool for proselytisers in schools. Now it seems Ofsted has come to the same conclusion." Fri, 29 Jun 2007

America’s trust in religious institutions dips

"Americans trust the military and the police force significantly more than the church and organised religion, a new Gallup Poll says. Only 46 percent of respondents said they had either a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the church, compared with 69 percent who said they trusted the military and 54 percent who trust police officers.
The figures are among the lowest for institutionalised religion in the three and a half decades that Gallup has conducted the poll. Peaking at 68 percent in May 1975, the numbers bottomed out at 45 percent in June of 2003. But while confidence is waning for organised religion, the numbers are even bleaker for other American institutions. Just 25 percent expressed confidence in the presidency, while a mere 14 percent say they trust Congress."

National Secular Society Fri, 29 Jun 2007

[Study] Religion among scientists

"The first systematic analysis in decades to examine the religious beliefs and practices of elite academics in the sciences supports the notion that science professors at top universities are less religious than the general population, but attributes this to a number of variables that have little to do with their study of science.


Almost 52 percent of scientists surveyed identified themselves as having no current religious affiliation compared with only 14 percent of the general population.
And while nearly 14 percent of the U.S. population who responded to the GSS describe themselves as "evangelical" or "fundamentalist," less than 2 percent of the RAAS population identifies with either label.


Among scientists, as in the general population, being raised in a home in which religion and religious practice were valued is the most important predictor of present religiosity among the subjects.


Ecklund says, "It appears that those from non-religious backgrounds disproportionately self-select into scientific professions.


Results from the study also show that the more children in a scientist's household, the more likely he or she is to adhere to a religion.
In the general population women are more likely than men to be religious, but in the RAAS population, however, gender was not a significant predictor of religiosity.


RAAS data reveal that younger scientists are more likely to believe in God than older scientists, and more likely to report attending religious services over the past year.", 06/29/07
That non-religious people "disproportionately self-select into scientific professions" might mean the same as tall men self-selecting into basket ball.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Two Council of Europe resolutions

"Assembly backs separation of church and state, reaffirms precedence of human rights over religious principles
Human rights must ultimately take precedence over religious principles where they conflict, PACE said today in a recommendation, following a special debate on intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. States should welcome and respect religions, in all their plurality, "as a form of ethical, moral, ideological and spiritual expression" by citizens, and should protect individuals' freedom to worship, but there should also be a clear separation of church and state, the parliamentarians said.
Recommendation 1804"

Council of Europe 29/06/2007

PACE: criticism of religions is permissible, inciting hatred against them is not
Religious groups must tolerate criticism and debate about their activities, provided it does not amount to gratuitious insult, but on the other hand hate speech – inciting discrimination or violence against people of a particular religion – should be penalised, PACE said today in a recommendation. Meanwhile blasphemy laws – which often result from the dominant position of one particular religion – should be reviewed.
Recommendation 1805"

Council of Europe 29/06/2007

75% of gay kids in faith schools suffer homophobic bullying

"Homophobic bullying plagues the majority of UK schools and shocking levels of bullying are meted out to school pupils and teachers who either are gay or perceived to be gay.


That figure jumps to 75% of young gay people attending faith schools.


In faith schools, religious disapproval and thoughtless disregard for LGB issues, compounds the tendencies of bullies to target gay and lesbian students even more.", 26th June 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Most people on earth believe in reincarnation

"Most people of Planet Earth believe in reincarnation, the latest survey undertaken by the Gallup Institute says.
Meanwhile, according to the sociologist Prof. Jorg Stolz, director of l'Observatoire des Religions of the University of Lausanne, this tendency comes up as people's understanding of the supernatural gets increasingly blurred, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily reported Wednesday.
'If you ask people what they believe in, you may see that the more precise question about afterlife you ask, the fuzzier answers you get. For most people, even God is no longer their Father in Heaven but rather a supreme power uniting man, nature and cosmos,' he said.
According to Stoltz, the concept of hell also becomes increasingly unpopular. Only 5 to 10 percent of Europeans still believe it exists, he said."

Interfax, June 27 2007
Religion getting more warm and fuzzy!

God's forgiveness = self-forgiveness

"This isn't going to be another of those posts full of "religion kills" bromides. In this case, the possible reason for Benoit's rampage may be linked to his use of too much of what the bodybuilding world calls Vitamin S. But the role the Bible plays here is interesting. [...] Benoit was using religion as many people do in life: a forgiveness quick-fix, the moral equivalent of using Fix-a-Flat to pump up a punctured tire.
While Christians go on about how no one without religion can possibly have a moral compass to follow, what they never talk about is the way in which people who do embrace religion, however fervently or casually, typically behave no better than unbelievers, and oftimes worse. And when they do behave worse, they use religion as a convenient thing to fall back upon, either to justify their actions, or to showboat a fake display of remorse." June 26, 2007
Or as they say: "We're not perfect - we're forgiven". It's a point that should be stressed more often. In real life it doesn't sound too convincing if you say "I'm a crappy driver, but I have a good insurance". You wouldn't want a person like that to drive any car, would you?
Atheism makes you accountable to your fellow human beings, not a made-up figure in your head that will forgive you if your delusion is getting worse.

Studies Show Importance of Fathers In Fostering Faith

""The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland," published in 2000 in a volume covering trends in several European nations. The numbers that trouble traditionalists came from a 1994 survey in which the Swiss government tried to determine how religious practices are carried down from generation to generation.

Apparently, if a father and mother were both faithful churchgoers, 33 percent of their children followed their example, with another 41 percent attending on an irregular basis and only a quarter shunning church altogether.

But what happened if the father had little or no faith? If the father was semi-active and the mother was a faithful worshipper, only 3 percent of their children became active church members and 59 percent were irregular in their worship attendance -- with the rest lost to the church altogether.

If the father never went to church, while the mother was faithful, only 2 percent of the children became regular churchgoers and 37 percent were semi-active. Thus, more than 60 percent were lost.

This trend continued in other survey results, noted Carrier. The bottom line was clear. If a father didn't go to church, only one child in 50 became a faithful churchgoer -- no matter how strong the mother's faith."

The Morning News, June 1, 2007

I found this terribly interesting. Especially combined with a tendency for men to be less religious.

The Morning News didn't mention what happened if the father attended church while the mother didn't, so I decided to Google a bit on the subject and found the remaining numbers:
"Surprisingly, if the father is a regular church attender the children's religious practice varied in an inverse relationship to their mothers' practice. If the mother was regular 33 per cent of children were regular. If she was an irregular attender then 38 per cent of children were regular. If the mother was non-practising then 44 per cent of children became regular attenders.
Even when the father is an irregular attender and the mother non- practising 25 per cent of the children were regular attenders and 23 per cent irregular attenders." (
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 15 No 8 (September 2002), p. 8)

Monday, June 25, 2007

UK Gov boots intelligent design back into 'religious' margins

"The government has announced that it will publish guidance for schools on how creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching, and has reiterated that it sees no place for either on the science curriculum.


Responding to a petition on the Number 10 ePetitions site, the government said: "The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. ", 25th June 2007
So there! See also

Council of Europe to vote on proposal to fight creationism

"The theory of evolution is being attacked by religious fundamentalists who call for creationist theories to be taught in European schools alongside or even in place of it. From a scientific view point there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of the Universe and of life on Earth.
Creationism in any of its forms, such as “intelligent design”, is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes.
The Assembly calls on education authorities in member States to promote scientific knowledge and the teaching of evolution and to oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline."

Council of Europe, Doc. 11297, 8 June 2007
Very long text. (Notice that Council of Europe is not the same as the EU.)
This will be voted over tomorrow. I have no idea about the outcome, particularly as this may in some ways affect freedom of speech (although I have not read all the 105 points and know nothing about it) , but I sure appreciate the initiative.

I think it sends a powerful message.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hitchens Book Debunking The Deity Is Surprise Hit

"God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," by Christopher Hitchens, wasn't expected to be a blockbuster. Its publisher, Twelve, a fledgling imprint owned by France's Lagardère SCA, initially printed a modest 40,000 copies. Today, seven weeks after the book went on sale, there are 296,000 copies in print. Demand has been so strong that booksellers and wholesalers were unable to get copies a short time after it hit stores, creating what the publishing industry calls a "dark week." One experienced publishing veteran suggests that Mr. Hitchens will likely earn more than $1 million on this book.

The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2007 (See also this graphic numbers for naysayers)
I'm a happy owner of the first edition!

Religion and the Threat Effect

"Building on the "racial threat" hypothesis -- which states that as the number of African-Americans in a community increases, the more likely white voters are to support conservative candidates and oppose policies that benefit African-Americans -- Campbell set out to see whether he could identify a similar effect among evangelical voters. It turns out that, even when you control for factors like party identification, the more secular people there were within a county, the more likely that people from evangelical denominations living there would vote Republican.
In other words, the more that evangelicals saw non-religious people around them, the greater the likelihood they'd walk a straight line from the church door to the voting booth and pull the GOP lever.


Whatever the answer is, the possibility does seem real for secularism to achieve a new awakening of its own as a political and social movement. [...] Greater visibility makes it easier for the tribe to reproduce itself: The more we wear our tribal identity on our sleeves, the easier our fellow members are to spot, and the more likely we are to define membership as one of our primary criteria in mate selection and thus pass on our identity to others."

Paul Waldman,, June 13, 2007
See more here Religious 'Threat' In Presidential Elections" (PDF)

Mikey Weinstein Tackles the Evangelical Coup in America's Military

"We currently have 737 U.S. military installations that the Pentagon acknowledges. It’s actually closer to a thousand military installations scattered around the globe -- in 132 countries. On every one of those military installations, we have something called the Officers' Christian Fellowship, for the officers, and for the enlisted folks, the Christian Military Fellowship.
They have a three-part goal that they are completely unabashed about –- it’s right on their website -– a goal they view as much higher than following the oath they have sworn, to support, defend, protect and preserve the Constitution. Their goals are, A, they want to see a spiritually transformed U.S. military; B, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform; and C, empowered by the Holy Spirit.


Do you know that in this country in 1970, we only had ten mega-Evangelical churches, meaning those with 2,000 or more members? But after 9/11, a new mega-Evangelical church has opened up in our country every 48 hours.
That is their right. That’s fine. But when they engage the machinery of the state and the people in the government, that’s when we have a terrible, hideous problem.
And this is coming right down from the Oval Office, up and down the chain of command. And let’s remember, at the Pentagon, we actually have regulations that prohibit military members from even pushing Tupperware, Mary Kay cosmetics, or Amway, for fear of what the Draconian spectre of command influence could force a subordinate to do."

Michael L. Weinstein, BuzzFlash, 06/13/2007

Polygamy fueling Arizonas rate of genetic disorder

“Arizona has about half the world’s population of known fumarase deficiency patients,” said Dr. Theodore Tarby, a pediatric neurologist who has treated many of the children at Arizona clinics under contracts with the state.


“It exists in a certain percentage of the broader population but once you get a tendency to inbreed you’re inbreeding people who have the gene there, so you markedly increase the risk of developing the condition,” he said.
The community of about 10,000 people, who shun outsiders and are taught to avoid newspapers, television and the Internet, is home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a sect that broke from the mainstream Mormon church 72 years ago over polygamy.


Local historian Benjamin Bistline said 75 to 80 percent of people in the area are blood relatives of two men — John Y. Barlow and Joseph Smith Jessop — who founded the sect on the remote desert plateau in the early 1930s.
“There aren’t any new people coming in. It’s a closed door and that gene just keeps getting passed around,” said Bruce Wisan, a court-appointed accountant overseeing a trust of the sect’s assets., June 14, 2007
We actually see the same thing with Pakistani immigrants in Norway. A lot of them come from the same rural area in Pakistan, and they have been inbreeding between cousins for quite a while. Traditions are to blame.

Atheists, Agnostics less likely to vote in USA

"A new study by The Barna Group examines the numbers, lifestyles and self-perceptions of America’s atheists and agnostics, contrasting the no-faith audience with those who actively participate in the Christian faith.


In the study, the no-faith segment was defined as anyone who openly identified themselves as an atheist, an agnostic, or who specifically said they have "no faith." In total, this group represents a surprisingly small slice of the adult population, about one out of every 11 Americans (9%). However, in a nation of more than 220 million adults, that comprises roughly 20 million people.


Atheists and agnostics are distinct demographically from the active-faith segment. The no-faith audience is younger, and more likely to be male and unmarried. They also earn more and are more likely to be college graduates.


Atheists and agnostics are also significantly less likely to say they are convinced they are right about things in life (38% versus 55%).


A Secular, Faith-Resistant Mindset
is More Common among Young Adults

generation current _____ages __ 1992 __ 2007
adult Mosaics ________ 18-22 __ -- _____ 19%
Busters _____________ 23-41 __ 16% ___ 14%
Boomers ____________ 42-60 __ 8% ____ 9%
Elders ______________61+ ____ 4% ____ 6%


They are less likely than active-faith Americans to be registered to vote (78% versus 89%), to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20% versus 30%), to describe themselves as "active in the community" (41% versus 68%), and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41% versus 61%). They are also more likely to be registered to vote as an independent or with a non-mainstream political party." June 11, 2007
More numbers in the article.

A lot of the numbers are as expected, but I was surprised about the voting difference. It can mean a disillusion with American politics, which is no surprise, considering the role that religion plays. This also corresponds with the fact that those who do vote are often voting for independents.
But remember: no vote, no change!

A thing that will no doubt look bad for the average American is that the non-faith group is less likely to spend money on charity while at the same time earn more. (Wonder how the stats would have looked if they accidentally phoned Bill Gates!) Considering the younger age, I think this may be an age/family thing. Even if charities for religious purposes are not counted (which dramatically decreased the gap), I think there's a fair chance that churches do collect money also for non-religious purposes, and that non-church goers therefore are not asked as much. Anyway, I don't live there, so I'll let others do the talking.
But just to have said it: in terms of foreign aid, European secular countries do a lot better than the US, so I don't accept the notion that without religion, no-one will care about other people. I've met too many non-believing bleeding heart liberals in my life to think otherwise. It's just that it's organized differently.

The New Secularism

""In 1984, 7.3 percent of respondents answered "none" when the General Social Survey asked what their religious preference was. Twenty years later, nearly twice as many, 14.3 percent, gave the same answer. Of course, the number of non-religious people will varies depending on how you ask the question. (For instance, the National Election Studies asks respondents whether religion plays an important part of their lives; in 2004, 23 percent said no.) But however you define them, no one doubts that their numbers are increasing."


The argument, in short, is that just as the elite-level secularization of the 1960s and '70s (in the intelligentsia, the Courts, and the Democratic Party) produced backlash in the form of the religious right, so now that backlash has bred its own backlash, in the form of a mass secularism whose attitudes toward religion, politics, and church-state separation are more European than anything we've seen before in American political life.", 15 Jun 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Salman Rushdie is not the problem. Muslims are

"Members of Parliament, as well as the Pakistani government, amplified the condemnation of Britain, feeding cries of offense to Muslim sensibilities from Europe to Asia.


As a Muslim, you better believe I am offended – by these absurd reactions.
I am offended that it is not the first time honours from the West have met with vitriol and violence. In 1979, Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam became the first Muslim to win the Nobel Prize in science. He began his acceptance speech with a verse from the Quran.
Salam’s country ought to have celebrated him. Instead, rioters tried to prevent him from re-entering the country. Parliament even declared him a “non-Muslim” because he belonged to a religious minority. His name continues to be controversial, invoked by state authorities in hushed tones."

Irshad Manji, Times Online, June 21, 2007

Commercial break: T-shirts!

I was creative this morning, and came up with this T-shirt design:

It's meant as a little twist on Ockham's razor. No points for saying that this encourages brainwashing though!
Oh, and I noticed they had an option for military T-shirts... and voila, I made this too:
Militant Atheist: No gods in my foxhole!

So, get shopping!

Friday, June 22, 2007

How multiculturalism is betraying women

"The crux case centres on a woman called Nishal, a 26-year-old Moroccan immigrant to Germany with two kids and a psychotic husband. Since their wedding night, this husband beat the hell out of her. She crawled to the police covered in wounds, and they ordered the husband to stay away from her. He refused. He terrorised her with death threats.


But Judge Christa Datz-Winter followed the logic of multiculturalism instead. She said she would not grant an early divorce because - despite the police documentation of extreme violence and continued threats - there was no "unreasonable hardship" here.

Why? Because the woman, as a Muslim, should have "expected" it, the judge explained. She read out passages from the Koran to show that Muslim husbands have the "right to use corporal punishment". Look at Sura 4, verse 34, she said to Nishal, where the Koran says he can hammer you. That's your culture. Goodbye, and enjoy your beatings."

Johann Hari, The Independent, 30 April 2007

Updated with new link.
See also his archive against religion.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Physicians' Beliefs May Influence Their Perception Of The Effects Of Religion, Spirituality On Health

Physicians' observations and interpretations are strongly influenced by their religious beliefs, according to the authors. "Physicians with higher intrinsic religiosity are much more likely to (1) report that their patients bring up religion and spirituality issues, (2) believe that religion and spirituality strongly influences health and (3) interpret the influence of religion and spirituality in positive rather than negative ways."

Medical News Today, 15 Apr 2007
Big surprise!

"Ex-Muslim" group launches in Britain

""Ex-Muslims" hoping to change the terms of debate about Islam in Europe will launch a British group in London on Thursday.
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain will be the latest addition to groupings that began in Germany in February and spread to Scandinavia in May. A Dutch group will hold its launch in September."

Reuters, Jun 20, 2007
They are setting up a homepage at and there's also Maryam Namazie's blog and homepage.
Incidentally, her blog had a good speech on the use of veils. What's all the fuss about the veil?:

"Adult women may have the ‘right’ to veil though that right is in no way absolute as many rights aren’t and a completely different matter for children – which I will come to later. But having the right to do something is very different from defending the ‘freely chosen’ veil or the ‘right to veil’. There may be women who ‘freely choose’ to genitally mutilate their daughters or immolate themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre but that does not mean that we must then defend the right of women to do so or defend the practice of Suttee or FGM. The defence of rights is not about making everyone agree as you will always find people who will defend and commit the indefensible – and that is what religion is in my opinion. It is about protecting human beings sometimes even from themselves."

Why the bible is wrong about Pi

In several different passages of the bible, seemingly round objects are described with a single diameter of 10 units and a perimeter of 30 units. These quoted dimensions may strike the mathematically inclined reader as odd, since it has been known for millenia that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is the irrational number Pi, which is approximately 3.1415926535.

The UNM Humanist Society
Here's a sequence with a million digits.

How many species did Adam name?

""And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof."


So Adam must have identified and named millions of species on that fine afternoon in the garden of Eden. 350,000 species of beetles, 120,000 flies, 100,000 parasitic wasps, 20,000 nematodes. And he was just getting started." 4/15/2007

It makes you wonder if the Bible really is true, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Conscience, Religion Alter How Doctors Tell Patients About Options

"Many physicians feel no obligation to tell patients about legal but morally controversial medical treatments or to refer patients to doctors who do not object to those treatments, report researchers from the University of Chicago in the New England Journal of Medicine.


This affects millions of people, the authors note. "If physicians' ideas translate into their practices, then 14% of patients - more than 40 million Americans - may be cared for by physicians who do not believe they are obligated to disclose information about medically available treatments they consider objectionable. In addition, 29% of patients - or nearly 100 million Americans - may be cared for by physicians who do not believe they have an obligation to refer the patient to another provider for such treatments."" 11 Feb 2007
Religious beliefs affect health in other words!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Goebbels on Atheism

"The European Crisis
Behind the Soviet leadership's pious phrases, we detect the grotesque face of Bolshevist atheism. It has not been liquidated, but rather it is only waiting to begin again its own work of liquidation, completing its work of extermination in the European states that it began with hundreds of thousands of priests in the Soviet Union. Only then, perhaps, will the Christian churches learn what combative enmity to religion really means.

Goebbels, Das Reich, 28 February 1943

"Make Way for Young Germany
No, the Marxist traitors were the ones who betrayed socialism, and the church was betrayed by those who claimed to defend Christianity but in reality made coalitions with God-denying atheists, thus destroying the foundations of national and Christian morality.
We have two Marxist parties for the workers. Are things going well for workers?
We have two Catholic parties. Has Catholicism been saved? No, the opposite is true. Ever since the Marxist parties in Germany began their fevered games, the workers have lost their jobs and their prosperity, and since the Christian-Catholic parties have joined with Marxism, God-denying atheism has gone about its work unhindered. These parties are the cause of the misery of the German people; the best thing for Germany is to kick this dead system's fat hacks in the rear."

Goebbels, speech 31 July 1932

"Communism with the Mask Off
In Germany we have religious controversies which arise from profound questions of conscience but have nothing whatsoever to do with a denial of religion. These controversies are exploited sometimes by harmless and sometimes malicious critics and a parallel is drawn between them and the absolutely dogmatic atheism of the Bolshevic International."

Goebbels, speech 13 September 1935.

Am I the only one who thinks the rhetoric of Goebbels sounds uncannily familiar to the run of the mill American evangelical?

Atheists: stand up and be counted

"I call upon atheists everywhere to stand up and be counted. Take pride in being rational. I'm a humanist and a Darwinist, but not all atheists are. There is a positive message in atheism, which is that it is a position of intellectual curiosity, and our children should not be subjected to the bullying negativity of faith schools towards the atheist. I live a full and moral life. It is untroubled by fear or deference of supernature, and I am proud of that."

Guardian, June 18, 2007

A Passion for Humanism

"Humanism will never make any progress with the American masses until it learns to combine reason and logic with emotion. Most people are moved by emotion. Note the effect of Black gospel music, rap, and rock and roll. Especially note the success of fundamentalist preachers. They have a language, a cadence, a system that rouses people's emotions through a pseudo-logic and it sinks in.", (Letters to the Editor) June 6, 2007
Probably true. I say this as a Black Metaller who knows the power of music. (Ooh, note the date above) Maybe not so much in creating someone's opinion, but fuelling it. Black Metal is of course Anti-Christian escapism, and not suitable for a positive message... but it works. Punk/hardcore also has a clear effect.
So if someone tried to use happier music for a more humanistic, positive message, I'm sure it would work. Now, let's just learn to play!

Ancient Atheism

"As the menace of the religious right has become increasingly clear, atheists have been increasingly driven to speak out in response and have become more visible. Viewing this trend, some commentators have erroneously concluded that atheism is a modern movement. But this is not so. Atheism is not a recent innovation. If we travel back into history, we can find clear evidence of atheists in many cultures and many eras, though their voices were sometimes more scattered and harder to discern.
In a thought-provoking post, Diganta of The New Horizon provides evidence by telling us about the atheist philosophies of ancient India:

"In Ancient Hinduism, there were a couple of schools who used to teach non-existence of God. The first one, Samkhya, used to believe in duality of existing things - as per the book, saamkhya kaarikaa. Prakriti (Nature) and Purusha (Consciousness) were thought to be the basic building blocks of everything."", June 17, 2007

Woman in UK 'groomed' as bomber

The former wife of a British Islamist extremist has said her husband suggested she carry out a suicide bombing against the UK.


"He used to say we should all do jihad because he used to give an example of a woman who was a suicide bomber in India, who killed herself," she said in the interview.
"My husband told me I should join him to participate in jihad as well."
The woman told the programme her husband attempted to give her instructions in how to turn herself into a suicide bomber by concealing explosives under baggy, traditional, Islamic clothes.
"He would tell me how to use a [bomb] belt around the waist," she said. "Whenever he would discuss these matters I just would ignore him and go to the kitchen."
The woman said: "I told him I'm not interested at all. He was very clever. He told me how the girls tied the suicide belt around their waist and [wore] the hijab over the top.

BBC, 11 June 2007
So, the religious dress for muslim women can 1. cover their identity and 2. cover bombs.
How very convenient.

On a similar note:

"Netherlands: Demand to study veils in cars
The Party for Freedom wants a study about the "quickly rising number" is women driving with a veil. The veil considerably narrows the women's field of vision, and they notice cyclists and pedestrians too late when turning. Parliament member Barry Madlener wants Minister of Transportation Eurlings to study the dangers of a veil and burqa. "I have already heard from many people that they that almost been ran over by a woman with a veil."
Madlener says that veils often stick out a bit, and obstruct the view to the side. Moreover drivers wearing a veil hear less.
There are no rules for wearing a veil in traffic. The parliament member wants women to take off the veil in the car if it turns out that it's dangerous."

Nederlands Dagblad via June 08, 2007
As the blogger laconically says: "And then people wonder why Saudi Arabia forbids women from driving."

Rise of the New Atheists

"A more general issue affects American surveys on religious beliefs, namely, the "social desirability effect," in which respondents are reluctant to give an unpopular answer in a society in which being religious is the norm. What happens when questions are framed to overcome this distortion? The FT/H poll tried to counteract it by allowing space not only for the customary "Not sure" but also for "Would prefer not to say" -- and 6 percent of Americans chose this as their answer to the question of whether they believed in God or a supreme being. Add to this those who declared themselves as atheists or agnostics and, lo and behold, the possible sum of unbelievers is nearly one in four Americans."

Ronald Aronson, The Nation, via Alternet June 16, 2007

The article deals with much more than statistics, and is well worth reading. See also: Are Nearly One-Fourth of Americans Non-Believers?

Poll Says Americans Looking for a Religious President

"According to the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute, a nation-wide telephone survey of 958 Americans reveals what role religion may play in the 2008 elections.
Over half of all respondents with an opinion, 60.7%, believe a presidential candidate should be a religious person while 39.3% do not."

Yahoo, Jun 14 2007
More numbers in the press release

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Should Science Speak to Faith?

"Two prominent defenders of science [Lawrence M. Krauss and Richard Dawkins] exchange their views on how scientists ought to approach religion and its followers.

Scientific American, June 17, 2007

Most Kiwis against official religion

"More than half of New Zealanders are opposed to Christianity being the country's official religion, according to a poll.
Research New Zealand director Emanuel Kalafatelis said 58 per cent of the 501 people surveyed during the poll this month disagreed with recognising Christianity as the country's official religion.
"Just over a third (35 per cent) agreed with the idea of having Christianity officially recognised," Mr Kalafatelis said.


Men were more opposed to the idea of recognising Christianity than women, with 63 per cent of men disagreeing with it compared to 54 per cent of women.
Younger people were also much more likely to disagree with officially recognising Christianity than women.
"The research also showed that 66 per cent of those polled were in favour of making it compulsory for schools to teach about the different religions of the world," Mr Kalafatelis said."

Yahoo, AAP, June 17 2007

With (first and foremost) men and younger people on the opposing side, it also means it's the less religious who are opposed, not competing religions.
(Having said that: 501 people asked is exactly half of the number of people that should have been asked.)

Religious, but ignorant

"Prothero and others have found a shocking lack of knowledge about the religions to which Americans purport to belong, bested only by their ignorance of religions to which they don't belong.
Surveys say only half of America's adults can name any of the four Gospels. Most Americans can't name the first book of the Bible. Only a third know that Jesus (not Billy Graham) delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
Yet, writes Prothero: "World events have been shaped by Confucian ritual, Jewish law, Christian love and Buddhist compassion." In this country, Christianity, in particular, has migrated from doctrinal and narrative components to a focus on religious experience that doesn't appear to require a knowledge of the Scriptures.
"Being a Christian has become synonymous with having a born-again experience or opposing abortion and stem-cell research," he said. "American Christians focus on loving Jesus rather than learning what he taught."", June 17, 2007
Religious and ignorant in other words!

Foreign Missionaries Find Fertile Ground in Europe

"For centuries, when Europe was the global center of Christianity, millions of European missionaries traveled to other continents to spread their faith by establishing schools and churches. Now, with European church attendance at all-time lows and a dearth of preachers in the pulpits, thousands of "reverse missionaries" are flocking back, migrating from poor countries to rich ones to preach the Gospel where it has fallen out of fashion."

Washington Post, June 11, 2007

It might be noted that they tend to attract immigrants who already are religious. And I reckon that most Europeans have become too skeptical for this.
On the bright side, notice that humanist groups are starting to spread in Africa. Some of the them request skeptical books, and I for one am going to send a few myself.

Prison chapel books being removed

"National effort linked to 9/11 targeting radical texts, primarily Islamic
Inmates at the federal prison camp in Otisville, N.Y., were stunned by what they saw at the chapel library on Memorial Day – hundreds of books had disappeared from the shelves.
The removal of books is occurring nationwide, part of a long-delayed, post-Sept. 11 federal directive intended to prevent radical religious texts, specifically Islamic ones, from falling into the hands of violent inmates.


Mr. Feldman said the study was made out of a concern that prisons "had been radicalized by inmates who were practicing or espousing various extreme forms of religion, specifically Islam, which exposed security risks to the prisons and beyond the prisons to the public at large."
Mr. Feldman said inmates are permitted to order books on their own and bypass the chapel libraries. "So fundamentally this is not a case about what books the inmates have the ability to read," he said.", June 10, 2007

Strange how they think religious books can have a negative effect!

Brain gets a thrill from charity

"-- Knowing your money is going to a good cause can activate some of the same pleasure centers in your brain as food and sex, U.S. researchers said Thursday.
People who participated in a study got a charge knowing that their money went to a charity -- even when the contribution was mandatory, like a tax. They felt even better when they voluntarily made a donation, researchers found.


He and colleagues were hoping to find out whether there was something in the act of giving itself -- and not just the social and egotistical reward of being a philanthropist -- that offers satisfaction.
"The fact that we find pleasurable activity in those mandatory tax-like situations strongly suggests the existence of pure altruism," he said."

CNN, June 14, 2007
Another article proving that we do not need religion to wish to do good things for other people.

260 reports of abuse yearly in Protestant churches

"The three companies that insure the majority of Protestant churches in America say they typically receive upward of 260 reports each year of young people under 18 being sexually abused by clergy, church staff, volunteers or congregation members.


Religious groups and victims' supporters have been interested in the figure ever since the Roman Catholic sex abuse crisis hit five years ago. The church has revealed that there have been 13,000 credible accusations against Catholic clerics since 1950 -- 228 a year.
Protestant numbers have been harder to come by because the denominations are less centralized than the Catholic church."
Chicago Sun Times, June 15, 2007

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Vatican urges boycott of Amnesty International

"The Vatican has urged all Catholics to stop donating money to Amnesty International, accusing the human rights group of promoting abortion."

BBC, 14 June 2007
I had been thinking for a while about joining Amnesty, but imagine what I did after hearing about this... That's right, I joined Amnesty!

So fuck you pope Benedict and your paedophile church!

Please join Amnesty
Italian catholics, leave the church here.
Read about the Vatican's cover-up

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

'Messianism' and the Extreme Lengths People Go Through for Their Beliefs

"Originally written as a scholarly work of religious and psychiatric import, The Messianic Imperative: Scourge or Savior was transformed into a thought-provoking chronicle on messianism to the task of survival of our civilization following the devastating 9/11 tragedy. The core motivations of widely disparate people -- Islamic terrorists, Israeli settlers, and American fundamentalists -- are, in their purest form, "messianic" in nature. These people are positioned to move the world towards a disaster long depicted in apocalyptic terms on the Plains of Abraham, but now also present in our midst.


In this startling work, the author contends that the key to reaching such imbued people, so alienated from the rest of us, is through utilization of the little we know of reaching alienated individuals and groups. That knowledge has been chiefly developed in asylums by the original alienists, psychiatrists, also the social and political sciences and the pastoral discipline.", 5 June 2007

Dawkins: leftwing thinkers who promote cultural relativism are as bad as creationists

"Science, and the rationalist movement in general, face a "sinister challenge" from leftwing thinkers who promote cultural relativism, according to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
He told a packed Hay Festival audience that although the threat from creationists and the religious right is well-documented, science is also under threat from the other end of the political spectrum: "I think we face an equal but much more sinister challenge from the left, in the shape of cultural relativism - the view that scientific truth is only one kind of truth and it is not to be especially privileged."
As an example, he cited Kennewick Man, the 9,000-year-old set of human remains found on the banks of the Columbia river in Washington State in 1996. The view of local native Americans that Kennewick Man was their ancestor, despite strong scientific evidence to the contrary, initially held sway, and they were able to put a stop to research."

Guardian, May 28, 2007 (Or see it here.)

Debaptism 2.0: Fleeing the Flock Via the Net

"Disgruntled Italian Catholics are increasingly turning to the internet to leave the Church by getting "debaptized" -- but typically, the Pope isn't making the process web friendly. Cyberspace is one of the few places lapsed Catholics can get a copy of the formal letter called "actus defectionis" that is required by Church officials to leave the faith. One such letter, downloaded 30,000 times, is the main attraction at the Italian Union of Rationalists and Agnostics, or UAAR, website." 06.07.07

Poll shows belief in evolution, creationism

A new poll on American attitudes to evolution and creationism:
"Evolution, that is, the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life
Definitely true (18) Probably true (35) Probably false (16) Definitely false (28) No opinion (3) Total true (53) Total false (44)

Creationism, that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years:
Definitely true (39) Probably true (27) Probably false (16) Definitely false (15) No opinion (3) Total true (66) Total false (31)"

USA TODAY, 8. June (poll conducted June 1-3, 2007)

This would be fucking ridicolous if it wasn't so sad at the same time.

(See more numbers in the article.)

Lenin warns against "bald Atheist propaganda"

In the struggle for World Atheism we are sometimes met with the age old communist strawman. Most likely it is a result from McCarthy-era propaganda that was produced with a largely Christian USA in mind. But it is looking more and more stupid in European countries where Atheism quickly is becoming the norm without there being any gulags. (It would be inappropriate to mention Guantanamo here, because they don't have to work.)
Anyway, strawman and McCarthyism aside, here's a very interesting comment by Lenin himself:
"It is the duty of a Marxist to place the success of the strike movement above everything else, vigorously to counteract the division of the workers in this struggle into atheists and Christians, vigorously to oppose any such division. Atheist propaganda in such circumstances may be both unnecessary and harmful—not from the philistine fear of scaring away the backward sections, of losing a seat in the elections, and so on, but out of consideration for the real progress of the class struggle, which in the conditions of modern capitalist society will convert Christian workers to Social-Democracy and to atheism a hundred times better than bald atheist propaganda."

V. I. Lenin, The Attitude of the Workers' Party to Religion, Proletary, No. 45, May 13 (26), 1900. (The text was provided by
Is this news? Not to anyone with a minimum of knowledge about communism, but for people with less than minimum - people who swallow the bald evangelical propaganda that "Atheism equals Communism" - it is most likely big news. Lenin was still an Atheist (feel free to read the entire text), just that he was more into Communism:
"Why does religion retain its hold on the backward sections of the town proletariat, on broad sections of the semi-proletariat, and on the mass of the peasantry? Because of the ignorance of the people, replies the bourgeois progressist, the radical or the bourgeois materialist. And so: "Down with religion and long live atheism; the dissemination of atheist views is our chief task!" The Marxist says that this is not true, that it is a superficial view, the view of narrow bourgeois uplifters."
Not being a communist I shall continue to indulge myself in bald atheist propaganda - contrary to Lenin's advice! Atheists of the world unite!

Btw. if you want to search the archives at (they have a lot) just use Google like this: bald

Rebuttal to Terry Eagleton’s Critique of Dawkins’ The God Delusion

Terry Eagleton probably needs no introduction, but as his review of "The God Delusion" was translated and printed in Norway recently, I'll pass on this very thorough rebuttal from
Eagleton's review is the kind of review that is amusingly written, and may seem to make a lot of sense - unless you have actually read the book. If you're not going to bother to read the book, then at least check out the counterarguments before taking Eagleton's views for granted.

My "favourite" part of Eagleton's review is this one:
"Like a Modernist work of art, there is no necessity about it at all, and God might well have come to regret his handiwork some aeons ago.
The Creation is the original acte gratuit. God is an artist who did it for the sheer love or hell of it, not a scientist at work on a magnificently rational design that will impress his research grant body no end."

When I first read this I thought "WTF? Is he in touch with God or what?" Eagleton sure knows a lot about how God thinks to be an Atheist. No wonder religious people knows exactly what God thinks!

An update here. A hilarious parody on Eagleton: Review of Richard Dawkins’ new book ‘The Fascism Delusion’

Monday, June 11, 2007

Evolution timescale

"This is a great resource. Children often have trouble conceptualising the huge timescales involved in the development and evolution of life on Earth, in fact, many adults have trouble as well. So have a go yourself and point your mouse and slide through evolution."

Picked up from The Labour Humanist

Friday, June 8, 2007

[History] Hitler's Christianity

"To deny the influence of Christianity on Hitler and its role in World War II, means that you must ignore history and forever bar yourself from understanding the source of German anti-Semitism and how the WWII atrocities occurred.

By using historical evidence of Hitler's and his henchmen's own words, this section aims to show how mixing religion with politics can cause conflicts, not only against religion but against government and its people. This site, in no way, condones Nazism, Neo-Nazism, fascist governments, or anti-Semitism, but instead, warns against them."

A very good collection. Especially, take a look at the photos.

Is the Dutch Labour Party "muzzling" activists who want to help victims of religious intolerance, I really hope not

"I can't emphasise how much I hope this story isn't true, because if it is, then it is to the eternal shame of our comrades in the Dutch Labour Party. The accusation is that the party are trying to muzzle a young activist of Iranian heritage, Ehsan Jami, who is organising to assist other people who want to leave Islam but face horrendous hurdles, including threats of violence or murder. Sounds like exactly the kind of thing a young Labour activist should be involved with, as I said, I just hope this is wrong is some way, and that I can blog instead about trash media cooking up a load of nonsense."

The Labour Humanist, June 07, 2007
Will they never learn?
"Jami compares his situation with that of the meanwhile world-famous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who switched from PvdA to the conservatives (VVD) at the beginning of her career because she was not allowed by PvdA to speak freely about the emancipation of Islamic women. Jami is however for now refusing to leave the PvdA and will carry on with his committee. "I want to change the party from inside.""

Thursday, June 7, 2007

[Stats] Atheist Books Overtaking Christian Titles in Best-Sellers Lists

"The Association of American Publishers (AAP), the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry, recently released its annual estimate of total book sales in the United States, and according to its findings, religious books had a "difficult year."


Coincidently alongside the sag in sales of religious books has been a rapid interest in atheist books over the past months. Books that had not sold that well in the past are now beginning to turn into purchases.", June 6, 2007

Reject R.A.P. Morality and R.A.P. God

"In the humanist discourse on morality, however, there still seems to be a need to develop an adequate vocabulary. Narsingh Narain says, "We have to take note of two categories of good social behavior, one being that which is motivated by hope of gain or approbation, or fear of loss or disapprobation.... and the other on a sense of values inherent in human nature and requiring no external sanction. The latter alone deserves to be called 'moral'; I do not know any name for the former but will call it 'law abiding'.... It is basic to our position that morality and law abidingness should be clearly distinguished and disentangled from each other."", June 6, 2007

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe Presents our Top 20 Logical Fallacies

"What is a logical fallacy?
All arguments have the same basic structure: A therefore B. They begin with one or more premises (A), which is a fact or assumption upon which the argument is based. They then apply a logical principle (therefore) to arrive at a conclusion (B). An example of a logical principle is that of equivalence. For example, if you begin with the premises that A=B and B=C, you can apply the logical principle of equivalence to conclude that A=C. A logical fallacy is a false or incorrect logical principle. An argument that is based upon a logical fallacy is therefore not valid. It is important to note that if the logic of an argument is valid then the conclusion must also be valid, which means that if the premises are all true then the conclusion must also be true. Valid logic applied to one or more false premises, however, leads to an invalid argument. Also, if an argument is not valid the conclusion may, by chance, still be true.

Top 20 Logical Fallacies (in alphabetical order):"

See article for the full 20!

See also this post!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A minority is trying to impose its morality on the rest of us

"Whenever people start talking about abortion becoming a political issue once again, I know they're speaking in code. What it means is the religious right has spotted a chance to impose its opinions on the rest of us, first in the guise of more restrictive criteria for terminating pregnancies and then in the form of an outright ban.

They don't admit this is their agenda, of course. Calls to criminalise abortion tend to be left to cardinals, while MPs who are hostile to abortion talk about the need to tighten up the law. They make emotive speeches about late terminations, disregarding the obvious fact that most could be avoided by making abortion easier to obtain in the first three months.


There is in fact a perfectly coherent moral argument in favour of abortion - that women and girls should not be forced by the state to continue with pregnancies against their will"

Joan Smith, Independent, 01 June 2007

Church is trying to impose its will through back door

"Priests make bad politicians. Do the cardinals and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church realise what a hornets' nest they are stirring up when they say that Roman Catholic MPs should follow the church's teaching when voting on abortion? They are messing with the democratic process - and Roman Catholic MPs could pay the price."

The Herald, June 05 2007

7/7 bombs staged, say one in four Muslims

"A quarter of Britain's two million Muslims believe Government agents staged the July 7 suicide bombings, a new survey has found.


The poll, for Channel 4 News, discovered that conspiracy theories about July 7 are rife among Muslims - similar to those about the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

It came on the day Tony Blair attended a conference on Islam and insisted Muslims "overwhelmingly" wanted to be "loyal citizens", despite the "disproportionate" public attention given to "small, groups" of radicals."

Daily Telegraph, 05/06/2007

Sunday, June 3, 2007

LEFT BEHIND: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media

"But as this [American] study documents, coverage of religion not only overrepresents some voices and underrepresents others, it does so in a way that is consistently advantageous to conservatives.


Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders.

On television news -- the three major television networks, the three major cable new channels, and PBS -- conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.

In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders. "

Media Matters, May 29. 2007

Saturday, June 2, 2007

If It Feels Good to Be Good, It Might Be Only Natural

"One experiment found that if each time a rat is given food, its neighbor receives an electric shock, the first rat will eventually forgo eating.


In another experiment published in March, University of Southern California neuroscientist Antonio R. Damasio and his colleagues showed that patients with damage to an area of the brain known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex lack the ability to feel their way to moral answers.
When confronted with moral dilemmas, the brain-damaged patients coldly came up with "end-justifies-the-means" answers. Damasio said the point was not that they reached immoral conclusions, but that when confronted by a difficult issue -- such as whether to shoot down a passenger plane hijacked by terrorists before it hits a major city -- these patients appear to reach decisions without the anguish that afflicts those with normally functioning brains.


Morality, he said, is not a brain function elevated above our baser impulses. Greene said it is not "handed down" by philosophers and clergy, but "handed up," an outgrowth of the brain's basic propensities."

Washington Post, May 28, 2007
I see more and more articles on the subject, but this article was quite enlightening! I certainly will agree with this article, but I still think there is room for moral philosophy (in whatever shape) in that it asks us to think things through before we end up in a difficult situation. I mean, yes, we have a moral instinct, but we also have as instincts to eat quite a lot if we can, but no-one will say that "If I feel like eating, then eating is good". We are willing to let us be influenced by opinions if we think they are sound. So while I think this research is an excellent way to undermine religious morals as the "be all end all" of morality it will still not undermine religions (or any other moral philosophy) as a way of shaping our morals.
But at least, it will shut up the evangelicals and moral fascists.