Monday, July 30, 2007

If Muslims revered cattle, Shambo would still be mooing

"Shambo, the sacred Hindu bull, was executed by lethal injection on Thursday night and reincarnated the next morning, quite possibly as a member of the Welsh assembly or indeed a spiteful Welsh farmer. [...]

There were fervent protests across the Hindu world but the Skanda Vale sect, which both harboured and revered Shambo, was rather more sanguine. One monk said: “This will simply add to the drama of his life cycle and he will come back again.” In which case, what was all the fuss about?


It was isolated from other livestock and, being divine, was unlikely to find its way into the food chain. The campaign to have it killed seemed motivated at least in part by pure vindictiveness on the part of those angry, badger-strangling Welsh farmers. And a sort of paralysis on the part of the authorities, terrorised by their own health and safety legislation and indeed by the baying farmers.


The only conclusion is that by this stage they wanted the creature dead and there’s an end to it.

But I wonder too if the members of the assembly would have dared to make their decision if it were Muslims rather than Hindus who chose to revere cattle? And what would have happened if they did? By now there would be priests set alight from Jakarta to Rabat, effigies burnt, fatwas issued. Cardiff airport would be missing an international departure gate.

The assembly would probably have come up with a compromise: okay, the bull lives but it has to wear a burqa when it goes out. I suppose Britain’s Hindus can console themselves with the thought that having their sensibilities trampled on suggests they are a community with whom the rest of us feel at ease and can thus victimise with impunity."

Rod Liddle, The Sunday Times, July 29, 2007

Categorising communities by religion is dangerous and counterproductive

"The Conservative party has commissioned a report about national security. One of the findings is that the Government is wrong to communicate with people from ethnic minorities as though they were members of groups rather than individual citizens.
(Read related BBC Story here)

The NSS has been saying this for years. The Blair Government created these group categories – mostly based on religion – to define whole swathes of the population. But the huge numbers who didn’t want to define themselves in this way were left without a voice.


Maryam Namazie and her recently-launched group, The Ex-Muslim Council of Britain, has vividly illustrated that there is no way that the label “Muslim” can be accurately attached to everyone who has come from a Muslim cultural background."

National Secular Society, 27.07.2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Atheist ‘Metaphysics’ and Religious Equivocation

"We have a very limited scope of knowledge. Everything we do know about our universe, we have learned through the scientific method. That which is outside our circle of knowledge, we seek to discover. We do not accept any new information about our universe into this circle of knowledge without sufficient evidence, and we only accept that evidence when instrumentation or multiple observers thoroughly corroborate it. In this manner, we seek to carefully and prudently expand the boundaries of our circle of understanding further into the great unknown. We accept that no matter how far we expand that boundary, there will always be much more to learn. Therefore we accept and make peace with the unknown, for it will always be with us."

BlackSun / July 12th, 2007

Uganda: Identifying the Tell-Tale Signs of False Churches

"Recent reports in the media regarding scams, manipulation and electric shocks in churches are revealing a worrying trend. Some unscrupulous individuals have chosen to use their knowledge of psychology to meet their selfish goals.
Observation shows that there is very little control over the messages that followers receive. High intensity fear messages are used in persuading them and hammering them to submission. The Ugandan population is very vulnerable due to poverty and HIV/Aids. Some sects are characterised by 'mind control,' 'sinister manipulation,' and 'creation of environments of totalism.
Outsiders are seen as evil and the strategy is to cut members off from rational reference, promising new families through 'love bombing' where all members are considered brothers and sisters. Leaders are usually charismatic and self appointed.
They are preoccupied with accumulation of wealth and recruitment of new members. Quick marriages are very central in the activities of the groups and are effective in the recruitment of new members. Some groups discourage the use of ARVs for members living with HIV/Aids."

The Monitor /, 27 July 2007

Western subversions of Muslim progress

"I shall address the internal structure of Islamic totalism as a major hurdle to democratisation, economic growth and progress in some future essay, but here I want to shed light on the way the west has consistently promoted reactionary Islamism, subverted progressive nationalist regimes, and thus controlled the destinies of the Muslim world by tying them down to a medieval mindset.


The second Western attack on Muslim modernisation was when King Amanullah of Afghanistan initiated an impressive programme to modernise his country. Industrialisation, modern education, liberation of women and many other such ideas were in the pipeline but the British in India recruited the most reactionary Mullah of Afghanistan, Mullah Shore Bazar, and a notorious bandit, Baccha Sakka, to launch a counter-revolution. They succeeded in overthrowing King Amanullah who was sent into exile in 1929.
The third assault on Muslim modernity was the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadeq of Iran in 1953 because he had nationalised the Anglo-Iran Oil Company. The British and American intelligence services joined ranks and with the help of reactionary sections of the Iranian clergy masterminded the agitation that brought to an end the Mossadeq era.


Chronologically speaking it was not Wahabism that set in motion forces that undermined modernising processes in the Muslim world; it was Khomeini's reactionary revolution that initiated it. The Saudis reacted violently to Khomeini's bid to capture the leadership of the Muslim world. Their rivalry drove Muslim societies more and more towards extremism."

Ishtiaq Ahmed, The News, 28.07.2007
Faith-based initatives in foreign policy.

Religion clashes with science in modern Russia

"Ten leading researchers have forwarded a letter to President Vladimir Putin, calling him to take urgent action against "the advance of clericalism." The signatories include Nobel laureates Zhores Alfyorov and Andrei Vorobyev, and fellows of the Russian Academy of Sciences Mikhail Sadovsky and Sergei Inge-Vechtomov, so the president can hardly shrug off their request.
What prompted them to sound the alarm was the recent 11th World Russian National Sobor (Assembly), held under the aegis of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose resolution calls on the government to add the ABCs of religion, under the name of Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture, to the list of compulsory school subjects. The Church thinks all children should be taught one Christian denomination - the one to which the majority of the population belongs.


Everywhere you go in Russia, you see a cassock. Priests bless warships and submarines, and sprinkle holy water over ballistic missiles. The Church has even published a Businessman's Manual of Morals. It fulminates against Western liberal values as erroneous and downright immoral.
The pendulum has swung to the side opposite militant atheism, and it is now likely to upset Russia's cultural balance."

RIA Novosti, 23/ 07/ 2007

Saturday, July 28, 2007

So Much for Another Stereotype

"According to this survey, 59 percent of the 1,088 Canadians surveyed think the evolutionary model is the right one, 22 percent think the creation model is right and 19 percent said they are not sure.


The perplexing part comes when one looks at a provincial breakdown of the numbers. Particularly striking are the Ontario and Québec numbers. Ontario pretty much reflects the national average in percentages of its population who are believers (84 percent) while this survey indicates that 51 percent of Ontarions think evolution is the correct answer.
In Québec, the percentage of believers is much higher (94.7 percent), but the percentage of Québécois who opt for evolution is 71 percent, the highest in Canada. The numbers for British Columbia make more sense because 65 percent of its surveyed citizens agree with evolution and 21 percent with creation and British Columbia also has the second-highest percentage of non-believers (35.9 percent) in the country.", July 3, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Catastrophe for Human Rights

"The root cause of the problem in the Council is the geographical distribution of its membership. The African and Asian states have an in-built majority. While this can be justified by the number of states and the populations involved, it enables a group of states, euphemistically called the "like-minded" group, to control the Council. Sadly, these states, as diverse as China, India, Pakistan and Cuba, are like-minded only in their determination to shield one another from accusations of human rights abuse.


I have been involved in the human rights bodies in Geneva for the past four years as the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) representative. It is difficult for me to describe my feelings of dismay at what has happened. It is also rare indeed for me to find myself in complete agreement with the U.S. administration. The United States, which is not a member, issued a communiqué following the last session of the Council that said in part:
"The Council focused almost exclusively during the year on a single country -- Israel -- and failed to address serious human rights violations in other countries such as Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Belarus, and Cuba."


Only Israel can be certain of condemnation. I also predict that no resolution will ever be passed condemning those who kill, or call on others to kill, in the name of religion. But I am equally certain that the Council will continue to pass resolutions "combating defamation of religion" (read "Islam")."

Roy W. Brown, July 3, 2007
See also: Islamic countries criticize UN secretary general

Sunday, July 15, 2007

1 per cent of Germans think Islam is most peaceful religion

"A study carried out for the news magazine Der Spiegel showed that 44 per cent of those questioned saw the Tibetan spiritual and secular leader as a role model, while only 42 per cent attributed the same qualities to the pope.
The Dalai Lama enjoyed a particularly high popularity rating among the young and better educated, according to the survey by the TNS research organization.
Asked what they thought was the "most peaceful religion," 43 per cent opted for Buddhism, while 41 per cent chose Christianity. Only 1 per cent picked Islam.", 14.07.2007

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A minority think religion is a force for good in Britain

"Only 45% of people consider that religion is a force for good in society in Britain according to a poll taken in the wake of the recent terrorist incidents in Britain. The poll also showed that 71% of people think that the Glasgow car bomb has given Islam a bad name; and 54% think it has damaged the reputation of religion in general.
Young people are the group most likely to view Islam as a violent religion. 28% of 18-24 year olds believe that Islam is fundamentally a religion of war which sits uneasily with modern Western culture, compared with 17% of the population overall and only 13% of those aged 65+. Less than half of all 18-24 year olds (48%) see it as a religion of peace, compared with 60% or over for every other age group.
Despite the Glasgow Airport bombing, Scots are the most positive of all regions towards Islam. Only 7% regard it as warlike, while 69% do not.
The research was carried out on behalf of the Theos think-tank. Its director, Paul Woolley said: "The trend that will alarm the Government and community groups most is that young people, who are generally more positive about spirituality, are so much more negative about Islam than the population as a whole.""

National Secular Society, Fri, 13 Jul 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why Are Atheist Books Best Sellers?

"First and most significant is the amount of evil coming from within Islam. Whether Islamists (or jihadists, Islamo-Fascists or whatever else Muslims who slaughter innocents in the name of Islam are called) represent a small sliver of Muslims or considerably more than that, they have brought religious faith into terrible disrepute.
How could they not? The one recognized genocide in the world today is being carried out by religious Muslims in Sudan; liberty is exceedingly rare in any of the dozens of nations with Muslim majorities; treatment of women is frequently awful; and tolerance of people with different religious beliefs is largely nonexistent when Muslims dominate a society.
If the same were true of vegetarians -- if mass murder and violent intolerance were carried out by vegetarians -- there would be a backlash against vegetarianism even among people who previously had no strong feelings about the doctrine." July 10, 2007
That's all very well, but here's an interesting part regarding the very "unfortunate" secularisation of Europe.
"I have taught college students and have found that their ignorance not only of the Bible but of the most elementary religious arguments and concepts -- such as the truism that if there is no God, morality is subjective -- is total."
Morality is subjective. Heard it all before, yet monkeys help eachother. Now watch this:
"Indeed it is virtually impossible to distinguish between a liberal Christian or Jew and a liberal secularist. Neither holds any text to be divine, both get their values from their hearts and minds, and they come to identical conclusions about virtually all moral issues."
How's that for "subjective morality"?
This just goes to show that the sum of human experience, or the human history if you like, has given us more information about good morality than religious texts.

While I think Prager has some nice clear thoughts in between here, he conveniently forgets that it's not only Islam which is the background for these books. American creationism is considered as maybe the most puerile fringe of Christianity. A couple of pedophile priests would never sway anyone, but systematic idiocy will.
Islam is a very serious problem, of course, but being liberals we are terribly understanding to people with lousy childhoods and poor education in violent countries. But God-fearing Americans have the possibility to get a proper education, and all they wish is to corrupt it with silliness from Genesis.

Terrorism may have been the final straw, but the reason why Atheist books are best sellers is because there's a lot more to religious problems than Osama Bin Laden.

As long as parents mislead their children, religious belief will lead to atrocities

"WHAT would turn eight intelligent, respectable doctors and other medical professionals into terrorists bent on a killing spree?


For intelligent young people brought up in religious households and grappling with the concept of faith, fundamentalism can be one of only two options: it is either all or nothing. When it comes to faith, there is no logic to holding a moderate viewpoint. You either believe fully that some supernatural being created everything around us and eavesdrops on all six billion-plus of us, monitoring every word and deed, every minute of every day, now and forever, or you don’t."

Irish Examiner, 11 July 2007

Collection of gender and religion stats from

51% of women have read the Bible in the past week, compared to 42% of men who report reading the Bible in the past week. (2006)
Women are more likely than are men to attend church on a given Sunday (50% to 44%, respectively). (2006)
Women are more likely than men to attend a Sunday school class at church (27% to 21%) or to participate in a small group (26% to 20%). (2006)
In general, women pray more often than do men, with 89% of women versus 79% of men reporting that they have prayed in the past week. (2006)
Women are more likely than men to be born again: 49% of women have accepted Christ as their savior, compared to 41% of men. (2006)
Women are 55% of the adult born again population. (2006)
Women are more likely than are men to believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings. (55% versus 41%). (2006)
Women are more likely than are men to believe that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator that rules the world today (78% to 64%). (2006)
74% of women compared to 64% of men say that their faith is very important to them. (2006)
68% of women describe themselves as "deeply spiritual" compared to 55% of men who say that "deeply spiritual" describes them accurately. (2006)

Oh, and Norwegian Muslim women are more inclined to support the introduction of Sharia in Norway than Muslim men.(In English)

I have a lot of respect for feminists who have been at the barricades against religion. The fight for women's rights have weakened the churches a lot, and will now continue to weaken Islam.
But after having seen statistics after statistics showing how more women than men support repressive religions it seems to me that the feminists can not cast the blame solely on the "patriarchy". They will have to deal with their sisters too.

Is Atheism a Philosophy or Belief System?

"Atheism is no more a belief system or a philosophy than theism is. Both can be part of belief systems, some religious and some not, some good and some not.
If atheism were a philosophy, then John should be able to explain exactly what philosophy it is that is held in common by all atheists who are: Raelians, Objectivists, Buddhists, Religious Humanists, communists, libertarians, socialists, Secular Humanists, conservatives, monarchists, Jews, liberals, etc. I don't think John can — just as his email didn't actually offer any counter-arguments to the explanations I have provided on the site. No one else that I've ever posed this challenge to has ever managed to provide an answer, either.", July 8, 2007
An annoying question answered nicely!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Africans Vulnerable to 'Prosperity Gospel'

"Prosperity gospel" churches compete with Baptist churches in Africa, especially for younger people, with promises of wealth and health, according to participants in a forum discussion Saturday at the Baptist World Alliance gathering in Accra, Ghana.
The movement is "attractive to young people, because TV shows a materialistic world," said an African leader. "Young people like that life."
The leader noted the influence of the Trinity Broadcasting Network on Africans who listen to the same message all day that promises of abundant material possessions.
TBC recycles worship services and talk shows around the world, spreading a theology that if Christians will claim the so-called promises of God, made in a few selected biblical texts, they can enjoy luxurious cars, expensive homes, obedient children and untroubled health. It's a theology devoid of discipleship and service., 07-10-07
Just creating hope, right?

Chris Hedges In Denial About Religion & Fundamentalism

"His recent book on the fascist tendencies in America's Christian Right has given Chris Hedges an aura of authority when it comes to religion and religious extremism in American culture. I suspect that this perception is sorely misplaced, though, because Hedges has adopted and insists on defending the popular belief that extremist or fundamentalist religion somehow isn't "real" religion and thus critiques of fundamentalism don't impact religion itself.


Let's be honest here: Chris Hedges and others are critical of atheists like Hitchens for creating straw men and simplifying religion, but if they are then Hedges and his ilk are at least as guilty — if not more so. At the very least, atheist critics like Hitchens acknowledge that there are other forms of religion besides what they criticize, but argue that those forms have little practical impact and thus don't need to be addressed at the moment.

Hedges, however, won't even acknowledge that fundamentalisms, extremisms, etc. are genuine religious movements at all. He doesn't have the decency to admit that they are religious belief systems that he dislikes or has arguments against; instead, he simply denies that they are religions at all.", July 8, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Muslim Americans, White Evangelicals Similar in Religious Fervor

"The Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of Muslim Americans, 80 percent of white evangelicals, and 87 percent of black Protestants say religion is "very important" in their lives.
These high percentages stand in contrasts to Catholics, only 49 percent of which said religion was "very important" in their life, and white mainline Protestants, only 36 percent of which responded likewise.
Moreover, Muslim Americans are similar to white evangelicals and black Protestants in their tendency to personally identify themselves first by their religion before their nationality.


The majority of white evangelicals (66 percent) and black Protestants (68 percent) said they take a literal view of the Bible, while half of Muslim Americans consider the Koran as the literal word of God."

Christian Post, Jul. 10 2007 (See also
How Muslims Compare With Other Religious Americans )
Evangelicals, the new Muslims! The next Osama bin Laden is apparently going to be white, and will love Jesus.
Newsflash: Christian Terrorist Cell Caught in Texas

People of the book?

"The question is, do Christians today really deserve this respectful designation? A University of Michigan study found that almost half the population attends Church regularly and a Baylor University study revealed that at least 85% believe in God. Historically, religion has played a key role in the American experience and the Bible has been its foundational document.
However, according to recent polls, Americans' knowledge of the Bible is woefully lacking. Although Gallup found that 60% of Americans read the Bible occasionally, most cannot name even one author of the four Gospels. Harpers magazine found that 12% of Americans thought Joan of Ark was the wife of Noah.
"God helps those who help themselves." It was Benjamin Franklin who coined the phrase but three-quarters of Americans believe it comes from the Bible, according to Boston University Professor of religion, Stephen Pothero. His book on religious literacy promotes a fresh effort at biblical education. Even Jay Leno, in his admittedly non-scientific man-on-the-street interviews, found almost no one who had heard of Cain and Abel or Sodom and Gomorrah. Several people thought Eve had been created from an apple or that there were twelve commandments. George Gallup once summed up, that America is simultaneously a religious nation and a nation of religious illiterates.", 07/09/07

If you think you deserve the title, then check out this quiz.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Don't gimme that old-tyme religion

Religion can be used equally to justify violence [...] and pacifism. Religion can be anything; it's like a synonym for society, culture or human nature. The problem with religion isn't that it's good, necessary or bad[...]. It's that religion can be all of that or anything else. There's nothing clear or pointed you can say about it to which you can't find a counterexample.

[...] Johnny has betrayed and negated his own nature, his self, by treating others, who are essentially like him, with hate and destruction. You look for help or rescue, but your core is no longer there. You've eradicated it. That's a far stronger source of moral suasion than some priest threatening you with hellfire. It's what people sense about themselves, and always have. Any claim that morality requires religion founders on the fact that humans in all eras have managed to act decently toward each other.

Religions have often tried to conscript and endorse the basic impulses of morality. But they don't create it [...] and can't enforce it effectively. When they try, the results are often contradictory: wars and hatred rather than peace and harmony. Go figure.


For most of what matters in mundane realms such as politics and morality, we're on our own, and we'll do better if we acknowledge that. If this be secular humanism, make the most of it.

Rick Salutin,, July 6, 2007

Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

"4. Most suicide bombers are Muslim
Suicide missions are not always religiously motivated, but according to Oxford University sociologist Diego Gambetta, editor of Making Sense of Suicide Missions, when religion is involved, the attackers are always Muslim. Why? The surprising answer is that Muslim suicide bombing has nothing to do with Islam or the Quran (except for two lines). It has a lot to do with sex, or, in this case, the absence of sex.
What distinguishes Islam from other major religions is that it tolerates polygyny. By allowing some men to monopolize all women and altogether excluding many men from reproductive opportunities, polygyny creates shortages of available women. If 50 percent of men have two wives each, then the other 50 percent don't get any wives at all.
So polygyny increases competitive pressure on men, especially young men of low status. It therefore increases the likelihood that young men resort to violent means to gain access to mates.


It is the combination of polygyny and the promise of a large harem of virgins in heaven that motivates many young Muslim men to commit suicide bombings. Consistent with this explanation, all studies of suicide bombers indicate that they are significantly younger than not only the Muslim population in general but other (nonsuicidal) members of their own extreme political organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. And nearly all suicide bombers are single."

Psychology Today Magazine, Jul/Aug 2007

Friday, July 6, 2007

With God On Our Side

The following is a five minute dramatization of the climate of aggressive evangelical Christianity encountered at the USAF Academy by Mikey Weinstein's son and which led Weinstein, a USAF honor graduate during the 1970's, to form the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The short includes appearances from Bernard M. Kauderer, Vice Admiral ( USN, Ret.), Former commander of all US Naval submarine forces, Richard Lamm, three term governor of Colorado, Richard T. Schlosberg lll, former publisher and CEO, LA Times and Denver Post, Bobby Muller, Nobel Peace Prize winner, co-founder of international campaign to ban land mines, Joseph C. Wilson, lV, former US Ambassador, Robert T. Herres, General ( USAF, Ret.), Former Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Ed Asner., Jul 05, 2007

48 percent of weekly churchgoers not in favour of Creationism Museum

The poll was conducted on behalf of "The Campaign to Defend the Constitution," or DEFCON. According to the survey, 48 percent of those who said they attend church weekly said the idea of the museum, which presents dinosaurs alongside Adam and Eve, was "scientifically unsound" or "biblically inaccurate.", July 5, 2007

Death Penalty and religious affiliation in USA

"Sharp differences also exist among members of different religious traditions. Opposition to the death penalty is lowest among white mainline Protestants (13%) and white evangelicals (15%), while it is notably higher among white Catholics (27%). Opposition is highest among seculars (29%)."

PewResearch, June 26, 2007 (Notice that the quoted stats are from 2005)
The support for death penality seems to be in decline though. (Wonder if it has something to do with secularisation?)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Religion too often makes life hell

"Our president continues to veto federal funding for stem cell research on embryos that would otherwise be discarded as medical waste -- using the argument of personhood for a few cells in a petri dish. He denies living humans with serious illnesses the chance for a cure through the use of this medical waste. Is that what God intended?
I take this personally because I am a multi-cancer survivor who might benefit from the availability of this research. But those cells in a petri dish appear to be more important than living citizens who need help.", July 1, 2007
Another sad episode in: "How religion improves our health"

Most Canadians say God created them

The Canadian Press-Decima Research survey suggests 60 per cent of Canadians believe God had either a direct or indirect role in creating mankind, shattering the myth that Canadians had long ago put their faith strictly behind the scientific explanation for creation.
The poll suggests Canadians divide in roughly three groups on the issue of creation: 34 per cent of those polled said humans developed over millions of years under a process guided by God; 26 per cent said God created humans alone within the last 10,000 years or so; and 29 per cent said they believe evolution occurred with no help from God.
"These results reflect an essential Canadian tendency," said pollster Bruce Anderson. "We are pretty secular, but pretty hesitant to embrace atheism." 04/07/07

If 'Islamist' is out, what do we call them?

"If it were proved that highly qualified, ambitious doctors were Islamist mass-murder plotters, it would put a hole through another comforting theory - that this is "all about" under-employed young men of low self-esteem and educational attainments.


On Start the Week on Monday, all the distinguished guests, including the philosopher John Gray and the historian Eric Hobsbawm, vehemently agreed that the word "Islamist", which I have used at the top of this column, was wrong and dangerous. It implied a strong lin
k to Islam, which was unfair. I thought the distinction between "Islamic" and "Islamist" was enough: but if we need a new and more accurate word for extremist Muslims, what is it?"

Andrew Marr, Daily Telegraph, 04/07/2007
Terror-spooked EU: 'Don't say Muslims'
Gordon Brown's ban on the word "Muslim" in relation to terrorism can be blamed on the EU
. The prime minister has told Cabinet members not to mention "Muslim" and "terrorism" in the same breath. It comes after the European Commission issued a guide for government spokesmen to avoid offence by ruling out the words such as "jihad", "Islamic" or "fundamentalist" in statements about terrorist attacks.

Daily Mail, 4th July 2007
But being a reasonable fellow, I decided to look up "muslim" at to see the alternatives:

Dreams origin of religion?

"This notion is so widely shared by traditions all across the globe that some scholars have gone so far as to argue that religion itself actually originated in dream experience," Kelly Bulkeley, past president of the Association for the Study of Dreams, wrote in his book "Transforming Dreams: Learning Spiritual Lessons From the Dreams You Never Forget" (2000)

International Herald Tribune, July 4, 2007
The actual article is just generally about dreaming so unfortunately there wasn't much on the subject but I have been thinking about the connections between religion and dreams myself lately. It is well known that religious people interpret dreams in special ways, but let's say you are a stoneage man. How do you deal with dreams?
I think mankind never really had a chance to avoid becoming religious. Dreams are strange, and they certainly take us into a different world that will seem to resemble a metaphysical world. And naturally, sometimes dreams seem to try to tell us something. (what they tell us is usually what we think, because dreams is the brain's way of sorting the our thoughts.) Anyway, by the time we understood how dreams originated, religions had been established all over the globe and had long since made themselves independent of dreams.

I think it would be worth shedding some light on this subject.

Inferior Design

I had expected to be as irritated by Michael Behe’s second book as by his first. I had not expected to feel sorry for him.


It commits the logical error of arguing by default. Two rival theories, A and B, are set up. Theory A explains loads of facts and is supported by mountains of evidence. Theory B has no supporting evidence, nor is any attempt made to find any. Now a single little fact is discovered, which A allegedly can’t explain. Without even asking whether B can explain it, the default conclusion is fallaciously drawn: B must be correct. Incidentally, further research usually reveals that A can explain the phenomenon after all: thus the biologist Kenneth R. Miller (a believing Christian who testified for the other side in the Dover trial) beautifully showed how the bacterial flagellar motor could evolve via known functional intermediates.


If mutation, rather than selection, really limited evolutionary change, this should be true for artificial no less than natural selection. Domestic breeding relies upon exactly the same pool of mutational variation as natural selection. Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behe’s theory, what would you do? You’d take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: let’s call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that you’d wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming. Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility., July 1, 2007

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Atheism Is a Civil Rights Issue

Numerous commenters on Nisbet's post have pointed out the many ways in which atheism is a civil rights issue. There are the atheist parents who are denied custody of their children because of their atheism; state constitutions that officially deny atheists the right to hold public office (now unenforceable, but the discriminatory language has never been removed); religious language in official affirmations like the Pledge of Allegiance that infringes on atheist parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit; government programs that take atheists' tax dollars and use them to pay for programs of religious indoctrination; and more. And then there are the significant pluralities, if not majorities in some cases, who consider atheists to be the least trustworthy group in America and would not vote for atheists for public office. These examples show Nisbet's claims to be unfounded in reality, and he has chosen to ignore them rather than make any effort to address them.

It is now obvious that what Nisbet is demanding is that atheists be silent and not speak our minds. That isn't going to happen. I'm happy to see a vigorous, thriving atheist community take shape, and we will continue to say exactly what we think. Nisbet can sputter and complain about this to his heart's content, but it will not silence us; it will only show that his position is without worth or value and deserves no further consideration. Meanwhile, we who are genuinely concerned with both the civil rights and the public image of nonbelievers can and will press ahead in the vital effort to defend both., 07 July 2007

Religion losing its allure in Australia

"Since 2001, the number of people [in Australia] saying they have no religious conviction has risen from 2.9 million, or 15.5 per cent of the population to 3.7 million, or 19 per cent.

So, over a period during which the total population has grown by just under a million, the number of non-believers has risen by 800,000. Which means the percentage increase of non-believers is close to 30 per cent.

Conversely, the percentage affirming commitment to some form of Christianity has hardly fallen – from 54 per cent to 53.2. In numerical terms, the overall number of Christians has declined from 10,768,000 to 10,577,000 – hardly cause for the bishops to sweat.

However, when the population is increasing, it's difficult to deny the emergence of a trend towards decline – and if the trend were to continue, as it has over the past three census periods, Christians will a minority very soon.

Those who fear that as Christianity declines, other religions will gain new adherents need not do so. In the past five years, the percentage of Australians claiming belief in "other" religions – Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and so on – has also slipped – from 30.5 per cent to 28.1 per cent.


So it seems beyond dispute that, rather than cleaving to "new" religions offering new alleged truths and insights and rather than falling back on the age-old shibboleths of "traditional" Abrahamic religions, increasing numbers of Australians are rejecting religion altogether."

Daily Telegraph (Australia), July 03, 2007

Multiculturalism and faith schools a recipe for disaster

"Multiculturalism may seem a liberal policy, but it reinforces prejudices. [...] While any society will always have its fair share of bigots, we also found that governmental multiculturalism made the problem worse. By arguing that all groups in society should be allowed to live according to their own beliefs and customs, they were encouraging people to see themselves as different from one another. And not just a little bit different, but fundamentally different. So it fostered a them-and-us attitude to politics.


parallels that can reasonably be made between Britain and the Netherlands, particularly in regard to faith schools. "The Dutch always pursued a segregated education policy of different schools for Protestants and Catholics," he points out, "and it seemed obvious for them to apply the same principles for Muslims.
"Yet the evidence proves this hasn't worked. The biggest predictor of integration and social mobility in the Netherlands is the ability to speak Dutch, and kids at Muslim schools are not learning the language as well as students in other schools. The result is that second-generation Muslim immigrants are actually becoming worse off than their parents, a situation that can only cause more problems. And if the British government continues to promote faith schools, it could well find itself in a similar predicament."

Guardian, July 3, 2007

Monday, July 2, 2007

WikiIslam - critical encyclopedia

"How is WikiIslam different from WikiPedia?
Asides from the fact that Islam is the primary topic at WikiIslam, the main difference between WikiIslam and Wikipedia is that the primary goal of WikiIslam is to help Muslims leave Islam by providing them with information that may otherwise not be available to them.

Is WikiIslam a hate site?
No, WikiIslam is not a hate site. We do not believe all Muslims are terrorists. In fact, many of us are ex-Muslims with Muslim family and friends. The purpose of this wiki is to archive those truths about Islam which are frequently censored by Muslims or political correctness. This project also provides a much-needed relief for editors at WikiPedia whose opinions are constantly edited out by Muslims and others who are afraid of saying anything against Islam for fear of NPOV or bias.

What is the purpose of WikiIslam?
The purpose of WikiIslam is to help Muslims leave Islam. WikiIslam can help Muslims leave Islam either by showing Muslim visitors a side of Islam that they may have never seen before, or by being used as a reference by non-Muslims who are trying to help Muslims leave Islam.


Who runs this website?
The site belongs to and is maintained by Faith Freedom International. FFI is an organization whose goals are to unmask Islam and help Muslims leave it. It is founded by Ali Sina, an ex-Muslim from Iran.

FAQ, (Last edit 30. Jun. 2007)
Seems like a good resource!

Come to think of it: something similar would be good for Atheism in general. There's this one: but it seems to go slow.

The Muslim faithless

Ridiculing and questioning Islam, Muhammad, the Qur'an and religion in general is an ancient tradition in Muslim countries.


Those Muslims who condemn such literature and views as un-Islamic and new-fangled western imports are obviously unaware of their own history. Some 12 centuries before these modern writers, Ibn al-Rawandi was establishing a controversial reputation for himself as the Richard Dawkins of ninth-century Baghdad (probably the wealthiest and most advanced city in the world at the time).

Belonging, as he did, to a more poetic age, his most famous work was not entitled The Allah Delusion, but had the more colourful title of The Emerald Book (Kitab al-Zumurrud). Nevertheless, he was no less sparing than Dawkins would be in his indictment and rejection of the divine authorship of the Qur'an, Muhammad's status as a prophet and organised religion. He argued that humans possess the gift of intellect, by which they can judge right and wrong, rendering the prophets and scripture superfluous.

According to Dawkins, most of the modern scientists who talk of "God" do so in the loosest possible sense of the word. Likewise, many of the greatest scientists of Islam's golden age sailed pretty close to the wind and, like their modern counterparts, were often deists rather than theists.


Islam's glory was a secular one based on knowledge and science. This is what makes the current drift towards scripture, ritual and conservatism in many Muslims so alarming. Just because dictators and foreign meddling spoiled the modern secular experiment, that does not mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Khaled Diab, Guardian, June 30, 2007

Sunday, July 1, 2007

My plea to fellow Muslims: you must renounce terror

"When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network, a series of semi-autonomous British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology, I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy.
By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the 'Blair's bombs' line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology."

The Observer, July 1, 2007