Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Supreme Court Decisions on Religious Liberty

"Supreme Court Decisions on Religious Liberty
Full Listing of Cases", 24. August 2007

Genocide and Atheism

Two blog posts that go through some of the points related to this common and completely ridiculous idea:

"Atheism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million people in the 20th Century. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot killed millions of people in the name of atheism. Atheism is the cause of the most repressive, murderous regimes in history."


"Atheism is not a movement. No government or country effectuates policy in the name of atheism. Atheism is not even a a proper "ism". It has no guidelines, rules, tenets, or practices. It has no rituals, dogma, holy books or scripture. It cannot replace religion, because it is merely the vacuum created when religion disappears from one's personal beliefs.


Atheism in Stalin's Russia, then, was a mere tool used by Stalin, for the greater good of the state, imposed on the structure of society. It's effect was to strip away the power of the church to oppose his power. It was not a mere lack of belief in gods. Stalin could care less about the individual beliefs of the peasant, his focus was on destroying organized religion".


I challenge anyone to go through [the communists' (etc)] writings, or the writings of their biographers, and find any references to genocide on the grounds of a belief in god.


However, [the theist accusers] would still reason that while the killings perpetrated by these leaders were not done specifically in the furtherance of atheism, it is still because of their atheism that their moral depravity reached the depths witnessed by the entire world. But this still leads to logical fallacy. The world has never experienced a government conceived entirely on the notions of Hume, Spinoza, Paine, Jefferson, Einstein and other free thinkers. [...] But such an experiment has never been done, so it's impossible for the theist to argue that the result would be a negative one."

Regarding biographies and writings, I may add that if it's something the Soviet Union was not renowned for, it was interesting books on Atheism. (Ever heard of one?) I suppose it's because communism had too many similarities to religion, so lengthy criticism of religion would be counterproductive, while simply suppressing religious enemies would business as usual.
And as for the experiment with Hume and Spinoza etc. it is quite clear that the North European secular countries are in relevant fields far better places to live than deeply religious countries. So we don't need an experiment to see what is best from a religious nation and a non-religious nation.

See also this post:

So Many Christians Ignorant About Their Bible

"We can start with this great little post by the Educated Eclectic from Pam's House Blend. It is widely known that fundamentalist Christians rely on Leviticus to justify their preexisting hatred of GLBT individuals. Their argument is quite simple:

The bible is the inerrant word of some god.
The bible condemns homosexuality (in Leviticus).
Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

The first claim is accepted uncritically for it is a core tenet of Christian fundamentalism. That the bible condemns homosexuality is clearly evident in Leviticus. So the conclusion is inevitable, at least to the fundamentalist Christian.
The Educated Eclectic invites us to apply exactly the same argument to another part of Leviticus.

Leviticus 19:19 says:
.. neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.

There is nothing in the Christian bible to suggest that this portion of Leviticus is any less serious than the part about homosexuality. And yet, the inescapable conclusion is that wearing clothing made of linen-wool blends is wrong in the same way homosexuality is wrong. I see two possible explanations for the fact that fundamentalist Christians ignore this passage. First, they are unaware of what the rest of Leviticus says, suggesting that they are not the Christians they claim to be. Second, their objections to homosexuality have absolutely nothing to do with their bibles and are simply based in prejudice."

Atheist Revolution, 28. august

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Evangelicals care less about global warming

"The latest survey released by the George Barna Group asked evangelicals "to indicate which of eleven changes were 'absolutely necessary' for the U.S. to address within the next ten years." The environment ranked last among the priorities of evangelicals.


"While Americans as a whole identified the overall care and resources devoted to children as the number one issue, which is laudable, the number one issue for evangelicals was improving the health of Christian churches followed by upgrading the state of marriage and families, and improving the spiritual condition of the U.S. Last on their list is the environment.

Yahoo News / Family Research Council, August 23 2007
Not surprising, these people are more concerned with an invisible god in the sky than "the global warming hype".
See also: Survey: Evangelicals Worry Most Over Health of Churches

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Secular Party of Australia needs your help

"I'm not sure if I have any Australian readers here, but if you are an atheist living in Australia, the Secular Party of Australia needs your help. They want their party to be listed on the ballot for the upcoming election, and they need additional members to make this happen. Membership is free, and you would be helping to bring attention to secularism in Australia."

Friendly Atheist 25. August 2007
I'll gladly pass this on! Good luck!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

For British historian Robert Service, communism is a religion.

"British historian Robert Service, in Comrades: a world history of communism, goes further [than Hitchens]. For Service, communism is a religion, a "secular credo" complete with millenarian overtones (apocalypse followed by paradise), an emphasis on scriptural exegesis (each communist party "was a synod of hair-splitting political discussion") and a theory of historical inevitability that looks suspiciously like a doctrine of predestination. Marx and Engels, Service suggests, enthusiastically encouraged devotion, with the consequence that they were "treated as prophets whose every word had to be treasured"."

The Sydney Morning Herald, August 25, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Out-of-body experience recreated

"Experts have found a way to trigger an out-of-body experience in volunteers.
The experiments, described in the Science journal, offer a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people." 24 August 2007

Italy: Court discriminates against Muslim girls

"The Italian supreme court recently rejected an appeal by the prosecution in the case of a Moroccan girl who had been beaten by her family, her parents and her brother. The appeal was rejected on the grounds that it was for her own good and for her non-conformity with their culture, she had gone out with a friend and her life style was not accepted by her parents."

Source: Il Messaggero (Italian), Liberation (French), August 10, 2007
See also this post I posted earlier about a similar case in Germany.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We have every right to oppose God's law

I don't usually post excerpts from discussion forums, but I thought this post was quite illuminating. (It's picked up from CARM / where you unfortunately have to register to read.)

"Essentially, it's just a simple argument from democracy. Since God acts as ultimate authority, and defines the law for us, he is, by definition, a dictator. If we believe in the principles of democracy, chiefly that the law is only legitimate if it has the consent of the governed, God's law is illegitimate. None of us voted for it, so it is unjust, illegitimate, and we have every right to oppose it. Furthermore, we are not at all deserving of punishment, as we have not given consent to the laws we've allegedly broken. God simply acts as a dictator, and as moral beings who believe in the principles of democracy, we are completely justified in opposing him."

BenTheBiased,, 17. August. 2007

On Literal Interpretation

"The theologians who hold this [liberal] view usually claim that large parts of the Bible, or whatever other text, should not be read literally and were never meant to be read literally. Instead, they should be interpreted as allegory meant to convey a spiritual message. [Still] there remains an irreducible core of verses that should be interpreted literally. Usually, these verses are the ones that convey the message of God's existence, his providence, and his love for all of humanity.


However, though the theologians are pointed in the right direction, I think they have not gone far enough. Their progressive mythologization of the Bible is a good idea, but it stops at an arbitrary point for no good reason. Why don't they go further and admit that the concept of "God" is itself just a metaphor for the way ancient cultures viewed the world? If they were to do this, they'd finally have a theology that is rational and in accord with the evidence, and one with which an atheist could agree without qualm.


Our response to liberal believers, who want us to take a certain set of scriptural verses literally, is the same as our response to fundamentalists, who want us to take a somewhat larger set of verses literally. If you want to go there and no further, what is your evidence? What are the facts that give us reason to believe that what you say is true?

Daylight Atheism, 20. August 2007

Netherlands: Why not call God Allah?

"The Bishop of Breda, Tiny Muskens, thinks "Allah" is a beautiful word for God and suggests it from now on. He is aware that using the name "Allah" would be very emotional and therefore he says it must be thought about, prepared and weighed in advance.
However, he is convinced it will happen, whether it be over a century or two. Muskens had worked in Indonesia for eight years and had prayed there to Allah, saying he had called God "Allah" during mass.

Trouw (Dutch) 13-08-2007

Why not call him Nobody?
It is appalling to see how some people are bending over backwards to accommodate Muslims. Dutch people and even many Muslims themselves are becoming estranged. Say, when they learn that as Moroccans, they are told to give their children names that are approved by Moroccan Authorities.
A good blog to keep up with the stories about Islam in West and Northern Europe is The blogger often translates important texts from European Newspapers into English, so it's very useful (albeit depressing reading at times).

NHS staff told to eat away from desks for Ramadan

"HOSPITAL staff in the Lothians have been told not to eat at their desks to avoid offending Muslim colleagues during Ramadan.
NHS Lothian has advised doctors and other health workers not to have working lunches during the 30-day fast, which begins next month."

Scotsman, 13-Aug-07
Wonder if some doctors get a little shaky hands when they haven't eaten? But no memo about the effects of not eating. That would be insensitive.

Turkey bans Wordpress blogs over alleged libel

"Turkish internet users have been blocked from accessing sites on the hosting service. A court in Istanbul ordered the website be blocked after lawyers complained that a number of blogs hosted by Wordpress were libellous of Islamic creationist author Adnan Oktar.
Turkish internet users attempting to access more than a million Wordpress sites are now redirected to a site that says in Turkish and English: "Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of TC Fatih 2 Civil Court of First Instance."


In response to a question on whether Wordpress should stop hosting the sites that allegedly libel Oktar, a blogger by the pen name of "savedbymcr" wrote: "My opinion is that if you give in to this it will only be the beginning. Everyone will start filing lawsuits and having blogs removed and sites shut down. Blogs are/were intended to be a place to speak your mind, not speak about what a government deems appropriate."
The sites that Oktar's lawyers wanted removed were written by Edip Yuksel and his supporters. Yuksel is described as an Islamic reformist who is based in the United States and who has frequently criticised Oktar.
Oktar himself is an Islamist who under the name Harun Yahya has written and distributed many books supporting creationist theories. His latest book, The Atlas of Creation, has been distributed unsolicited to schools across Turkey, the US and Europe."

Mail & Guardian, 20 August 2007
This is appalling, And this happens in a country that wants to be an EU member.

On a different note, as most of you probably are aware of: the only redeeming thing about this "Atlas" is all the nice photos. The book is 788 pages fat, weighs 6 kilos, and has pictures all over the place. Apparently, very good photos. Professional photos. And, as a Norwegian receiver/reviewer pointed out: uncredited photos. Copyrighted photos. "Thousands", apparently.
I assume that a good deal of professional photographers have had their photos stolen for this purpose, and I am sure that they want money for them. He's not anonymous, as he's been to court, so there's an address to send the bill to. If some kind receiver want to scan or photos of the pages, and post them on the net, then it will be a small problem to find the photographers. A lawsuit may be the likely result, if they're eager enough.

If these photos are stolen, btw. then Sharia has the answer.

A non-believer - say it isn't so

"In most industrial societies, the level of religiosity declines as the society becomes wealthier and more sophisticated, according to John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which regularly surveys attitudes towards religion in the US.
Yet the US remains a highly religious place. Not the most religious place on the planet, but certainly more religious than Europe and Australia.
Green puts that down to America's historical roots. "Many people came to America precisely because they can practise their faith openly," he says. "Secondly, these extensive religious communities compete with each other for members. It means more effort goes into recruiting and maintaining members."
There is also a kind of counterintuitive argument about why religion has flourished, according to Green. Because of the separation of church and state, churches have had to build extensive private organisational structures to push their interests and so have become strong within the society."

The Sydney Morning Herald, August 11, 2007

The Rise of Islamic Creationism

"Overall, this means that creationism is likely to remain strong in Muslim populations. The prospects for a western-style accommodation between science and religion, where each has their separate sphere, are doubtful. Culturally and politically, conservative interpretations of Islam are very strong, and conservative Muslims see little reason to back off from the ideal of religion regulating all aspects of life."

Tanis Erdis, International Humanist and Ethical Union, 7 August, 2007
This would mean that pushing Atheism is a better choice than waiting endlessly for them to moderate themselves. It's not like we have the whole medieval age to wait for them to enter this century.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Muslim World's Embattled Secularists

"Who will defend the Muslim who doubts his faith? Who speaks for the man or the woman who might believe in Allah, by his or her own lights, but does not wish to worship? We hear a great deal in the West about the need for freedom of religion in the Muslim world, usually meaning for observant Christians and Jews. But what about freedom of non-religion: the liberty of the individual to think, to reason, to speak out loud rejecting the dictates of public piety? Few voices are raised, if any, in his or her defense.


Perhaps this was inevitable. Not so long ago, in mid-20th century, secularists were the great "modernizers": the leading intellectuals and artists, the ambitious military officers, the charismatic politicians and, yes, the dictators of the Arab world. They saw themselves and were widely seen, then, as the cosmopolitan voices of progress and, not least, of a proud and assertive nationalism.
Today Arab secularists are silent if not, in fact, silenced. The ideologies that once united many of them (Communism, Nasserism, Baathism) have been discredited by time and tyrants. The milder forms of intellectual liberalism – an openness to other cultures, faiths and ways of life; the questioning of opinions presented as absolute truths – find themselves branded as treason to some greater Muslim identity, or worse, as heresy."

Christopher Dickey, On Faith/Newsweek, July 2007

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Religions more safe in ‘secular’ nations, U.S. nun says

"Faith believers are safer in a secular society than in one that professes to be religious, said a Benedictine nun.
During a series of July talks in New Zealand, Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pa., weighed in on the discussion of whether the South Pacific country is or should designate itself as a Christian nation, stating that New Zealand and all other countries should be secular.
"In a secular state, all religions are safe," Sister Chittister responded to a group at St. Matthew-in-the-City, an Anglican church here, at which she preached on July 15. "In a religious state, few religions are safe,” she said."

Catholic Online, 7/31/2007

Some doctors refuse services for religious reasons

"Doctors are becoming more assertive in refusing to treat patients for religious reasons, expanding the list of services they won't provide beyond abortion to include artificial insemination, use of fetal tissues and even prescribing Viagra.


Number of states that allow health care professionals to refuse to provide these services:
• 46 -- abortions
• 17 -- sterilization
• 13 -- contraceptives"

USA Today, 3. August 2007

The World's Stupidest Fatwas

"No central authority controls doctrine in Islam, one of the world’s great religions. The result? A proliferation of bizarre religious edicts against targets ranging from Salman Rushdie to polio vaccinations."

Foreign Policy, July 2007

Bill Maher on The Business of the Catholic Church

[T]he Catholic Church has had to pay the largest fine ever for diddling kids, $660 million. [...] Cardinal Mahoney announced that to help pay for the deal, the church would sell a building it owns on Wilshire and about 50 other properties they weren't using, which reminded me, oh yeah, the Catholic Church owns more property out here than Bob Hope did -- and why? Oh, yeah, because it's a business -- and not just a business, really, the greatest business in the world, in that, like all religions, it's selling an invisible product. It doesn't really get easier than that, unless you count Edgar Bergen, a ventriloquist on the RADIO.

Bill Maher, Huffington Post, July 16, 2007

Religion beat became a test of faith

"WHEN Times editors assigned me to the religion beat, I believed God had answered my prayers.
As a serious Christian, I had cringed at some of the coverage in the mainstream media. Faith frequently was treated like a circus, even a freak show.
I wanted to report objectively and respectfully about how belief shapes people's lives. Along the way, I believed, my own faith would grow deeper and sturdier.
But during the eight years I covered religion, something very different happened."

William Lobdell, LA Times, July 21, 2007
A quite interesting article on how a reporter on religion lost his faith.

British Children told to copy lines from Muslim Call To Prayer - to practise their handwriting

Junior schoolchildren were told to copy lines of a Muslim prayer - for handwriting practice. The Call To Prayer copied by ten-year-olds at Newlands Primary School in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, included the lines "Allah is the greatest" and "there is no god but Allah". Angry parent Hayley Clayton told the Sun: "The explanation was that the children were learning about Islam in RE. "But this was like taking an oath. A Muslim child would never be asked to write a Bible passage."
Her stepson Billy Darbyshire was one of the classmates told by his teacher, deputy head Helen Green, to copy the prayer. "Why didn't she choose a passage from a normal story book to teach handwriting?" When she pointed out that three of the 7/7 suicide bombers came from Leeds just 15 miles away, Mrs Green acknowleged that it was a "sensitive issue". "If it's sensitive, why choose that prayer?" she asked.
Billy's dad Martin said there were no Muslims in the class."

Daily Mail, 6th August 2007

Pentagon generals in trouble for promoting 'Christian Embassy'

"CNN reported Monday that the Pentagon's Inspector General has found that seven military officers, including four generals, engaged in misconduct three years ago when they appeared in a promotional video for an evangelical group called Christian Embassy.
Although no one in the military is allowed to seek converts while on active duty, the officers appear in uniform in the video, much of which, according to the Washington Post, was filmed inside the Pentagon. Former Acting Secretary of the Air Force Pete Geren appears as well."

The Raw Story, August 7, 2007

See also a press release at MRFF complete with the report(pdf).

Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris: The Unholy Trinity . . .Thank God.

"Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are not bigots. They are an unholy trinity of bestselling atheist authors who are fed up with having to tap dance around people of faith whose religious beliefs are as irrational as they are ubiquitous, and as potentially deadly as they are personally cathartic.
This unholy trinity is the rising voice of over ten percent of Americans who identify themselves as atheists (closeted or otherwise) who are mad as heck—we don’t believe in hell—and who aren’t going to take it anymore. What else can account for the phenomenal sales of the unholy trinity’s recent books?
Think of it, at least ten of your hundred closest friends are the “pissed off faithless” . . . a sizable cabal at any backyard barbecue, or polling station for that matter.

If the faithful would just keep their religious beliefs in their own pocket and out of public school classrooms and bedrooms and women’s wombs, I doubt much would ever be heard from the unholy trinity or the POF. What would be the point?"

Robert Weitzel,, August 7, 2007
Indeed. Religious people have brought this upon themselves.

Russians becoming less zealous believers - poll

"Fifty-six percent of Russians consider themselves to be Orthodox believers, according to a poll of 2,000 respondents conducted by the Yury Levada Analytical Center in July. One-third of respondents said they considered themselves atheists, and the remainder said they belonged to other religions. A total of 59% of respondents said they never attended church services, up 4% since 2005, and only 2% said they attended church every week and 4% every month, a 1-2% decrease over the same period."

Interfax, August 8. 2007
There's a lot of talk about the religious backlash in Russia, but if 33 per cent are still Atheists there, then that's a percentage which is quite high. And 2 per cent weekly church attendance is not exactly a backlash.
It's quite natural that the Orthodox church regains some territory. After all, the Communists did not really promote Atheism and reason. They were just content with banning religion, something that surely don't work in the short run.

God ’08: Whose, and How Much, Will Voters Accept?

"Polls in recent years have shown a clear shift in religious considerations. The vast majority of Americans at this point, said Mr. Green, care less about sectarian affiliation, at least among members of faiths that are now perceived to be part of the American mainstream — Protestants, Catholics and most recently Jews — and more generally about whether the candidate believes in God and how that lends itself to a moral framework.
A national telephone survey released earlier this year by the Pew Research Center asked which traits, including being black, a woman, a Mormon, a Muslim, or a homosexual, would help or hurt a candidate the most. The worst trait for a candidate to possess? “Doesn’t believe in God.”

The New York Times, July 22, 2007
The article itself doesn't say anything else about atheism, but this graph is appalling enough.

Reasons 18 to 22 Year Olds Drop Out of Church

"A new study from LifeWay Research reveals that more than two-thirds of young adults who attend a Protestant church for at least a year in high school will stop attending church regularly for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.


According to the study, 70 percent of young adults ages 23-30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18-22. [...] Another said, "I kept my feelings secret for fear of losing my friends."


"Relationships are often the glue that keep people in church or serves as the attraction to begin attending again following a period of absenteeism. Many people are deeply influenced by friends and loved ones."


Fifty-eight percent of church dropouts selected at least one church or pastor-related reason for leaving church. Most common was, "church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical" (26 percent). Another 20 percent "didn’t feel connected to the people in my church." The final category of reasons, "religious, ethical or political beliefs," contributed to the departure of 52 percent of church dropouts. Two reasons for leaving reflect this category: "I disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues" (18 percent) and "I was only going to church to please others" (17 percent).


The most common reason for returning is "My parents or family members encouraged me to attend" (39 percent). Twenty-one percent attribute their return to "My friends or acquaintances encouraged me to attend." Combined, 50 percent of those who return were influenced by the encouragement of either family or friends.


Women are more likely than men to feel "the desire to return" (41 percent vs. 22 percent) and to feel "God was calling me to return to church" (34 percent vs. 18 percent)."

LifeWay Research, August 2007

Monday, August 6, 2007

Prejudice alive and well in America

"By a wide margin, respondents believe Americans think Muslims are the most likely to engage in terrorism (83 percent). Moreover, 42 percent believe Americans would be most concerned about their child dating a Muslim; followed by an atheist (17 percent), and a Mormon (14 percent). In addition:
* 37 percent believe Americans think Catholics are most likely to be involved in sexual abuse-far more than any other religious group.


62 percent said they believe Americans oppose same-sex marriages. Yet 58 percent would elect a gay person for president-about the same as for an Arab-American (57 percent), and more than for a person over age 70 (51 percent), or for an atheist (51 percent)."

Frost Illustrated, 1. August 2007

Why have sex? Motivations range from greed to God

"New research published in the August issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior has come up with a list of 237 reasons that motivate people to have sex.


She said she was also surprised that some people said they had sex "to get closer to God." "Most of the literature shows that religious people have more sexual problems," she said. "But several people endorsed the idea that religion and sexuality were actually closely linked."

Baltimore Sun, August 1, 2007

A third of all Scots have no religious affiliation

THE most common affiliation is with the Church of Scotland, with just over four in ten of all adults being of that faith. Fifteen per cent of adults are Roman Catholics, 7 per cent class themselves as belonging to other Christian denominations and 2 per cent of adults belong to other religions. Overall, a third of all adults have no religious affiliation, although this varies by age, with younger adults being more likely to have no religious faith. In couple households, both partners tend to share the same religion, and where the highest-income householder is identified as having no affiliation, the same holds for their spouse, in the majority of cases.

Scotsman, 02-Aug-07

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Thoughts on the Afterlife Among U.S. Adults 50+

"To varying degrees, those surveyed say they believe in...

* God (94%)
* life after death (73%)
* the existence of spirits or ghosts (53%)
* heaven (86%) and hell (70%)

While 66 percent say their confidence in life after death has increased as they've gotten older, 20 percent report being frightened when considering what happens to them when they die. In examining the possible influences of afterlife beliefs and demographic variables, three factors emerge as most strongly related to fear of death:

* being somewhat religious (compared to “very religious” and “not at all religious”)
* believing that death is the end
* belief in the existence of hell

When gender, employment, age, education and marital status are taken into account, [low] income emerges as the only demographic factor significantly related to fear of death and as a strong predictor of being afraid to think about it."

AARP, June 2007
They also made a follow up:

"To begin, we found that people 50 and over tend to be downright conventional in their basic beliefs: nearly three quarters (73 percent) agree with the statement “I believe in life after death.” Women are a lot more likely to believe in an afterlife (80 percent) than men (64 percent).


Believers show general agreement over the choice of destinations in the afterlife, as well: 86 percent say there’s a Heaven, while somewhat fewer (70 percent) believe in Hell.


A lot believe there will be sex in the afterlife,


[T]he richer people are, the less likely they are to believe there’s a Heaven. Among those with a household income of $75,000 or more per year, 78 percent believe in Heaven—compared with 90 percent of those earning $25,000 or less. Similarly, 77 percent of college-educated people think there’s a Heaven, compared with 89 percent of those who have a high school diploma or less."

AARP, September & October 2007
More in the article (can't quote it all!.)

Profits in the name of religion

"Islamic banking is another phenomenon which I have personally found quite puzzling because by replacing “interest” with “profit” and engaging a religious scholar to put his seal on a transaction does not make that particular transaction “halal” in my opinion. Living in the interconnected global economy as we do how does an Islamic bank ensure that not a rupee/dirham/dollar is coming from a source that generates interest? With the consumer banking industry experiencing tremendous growth in the past nine years with the advent of Mr Shaukat Aziz in Pakistan, Islamic banks have proliferated by the dozen. Hoardings scream out to us to bank the “halal” way implying that the other banks are offering “haram” services. Advertisements call out to the faithful to use “halal” debit cards and enter to win a free umra, and now the faithful can even accumulate points which will ultimately lead to Paradise once they’ve got enough points to perform a free Haj. Is this what it has all come down to? Islamic banks are like any other banks and the investors who set them up have done so not to ensure the spiritual well-being of their customers but to make huge profits — nothing more and nothing less.


By using the emotional pull of religion to increase deposits somehow just doesn’t strike me as a particularly clean way of making money."

Shakir Husain, The News, Pakistan, 30 July 2007

God-Fearing People - Why are we so scared of offending Muslims?

"Before me is a recent report that a student at Pace University in New York City has been arrested for a hate crime in consequence of an alleged dumping of the Quran. Nothing repels me more than the burning or desecration of books, and if, for example, this was a volume from a public or university library, I would hope that its mistreatment would constitute a misdemeanor at the very least. But if I choose to spit on a copy of the writings of Ayn Rand or Karl Marx or James Joyce, that is entirely my business. When I check into a hotel room and send my free and unsolicited copy of the Gideon Bible or the Book of Mormon spinning out of the window, I infringe no law, except perhaps the one concerning litter. Why do we not make this distinction in the case of the Quran? We do so simply out of fear, and because the fanatical believers in that particular holy book have proved time and again that they mean business when it comes to intimidation. Surely that should be to their discredit rather than their credit. Should not the "moderate" imams of On Faith have been asked in direct terms whether they are, or are not, negotiating with a gun on the table?


The enemies of intolerance cannot be tolerant, or neutral, without inviting their own suicide. And the advocates and apologists of bigotry and censorship and suicide-assassination cannot be permitted to take shelter any longer under the umbrella of a pluralism that they openly seek to destroy."

Christopher Hitchens, July 30, 2007

Woman Who Sued Judge Over 12-Step Program Won't Have to Attend Meetings

"A woman who sued a judge after he sentenced her to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings has reached a settlement and won't be required to attend the 12-step program that she claimed amounted to forcing religion on her, her lawyer says.


After attending on NA meeting, Offutt filed the suit against Schrantz and Rogers District Court, arguing that the sentence illegally forced her to practice a religion. She claimed the programs have a religious undertone and required everyone to pray at the end of each meeting."

Fox News, August 01, 2007
From what I've heard, it's a widespread problem, also in AA.

Schools are run by Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir group Blair pledged to ban

"The Islamic Shaksiyah Foundation, a registered charity that runs private schools in Haringey, north London, and in Slough in Berkshire, was established two years ago by female members of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.


The group has an estimated 2,000-4,000 active supporters in Britain and continues to operate openly despite Blair’s promise to proscribe it.
Although Hizb ut-Tahrir states it is nonviolent, the organisation has radicalised a number of British Muslims who have gone on to commit terrorist acts after leaving the group."

The Sunday Times, August 5, 2007
See also: The wrong voice for Muslim Britain by David Davis, shadow home secretary and from June Copenhagen: Hizb ut-Tahrir kindergarten at

They should not only ban these schools, but any member of this organisation should be dumped outside Europe somewhere.

Religion: is the fight back under way?

"Let us look at the score-sheet so far as religious evangelists try to reclaim Britain as their own.

Sikh activists in Birmingham didn’t like the way their community was presented in a play at the local Rep Theatre. They protested and eventually rioted in front of the theatre and the play was taken off.
Score: Religionists 1, Secularists 0.

The BBC came under intense pressure from religious activists when it decided to show Jerry Springer - the Opera. Tens of thousands of born-agains (very few of whom had seen the opera) bombarded the Corporation with emails and letters demanding that the show be cancelled. The BBC went ahead and showed it.
Score: Religionists 1, Secularists 1.

Stephen Green, director of Christian Voice, which had tried to stop the broadcast of Jerry Springer - the Opera, tried to bring a prosecution for blasphemy against the Director General of the BBC. The court threw his application out.
Religionists 1, Secularists 2

The Government recently wanted to change the entry requirements at “faith schools” to permit 25% intake of children from other religions. The Catholic Church screamed blue murder and the Government backed down.
Religionists 2, Secularists 2

The Catholic Church wanted an exemption from the new Sexual Orientation Discrimination Regulations which would permit it to refuse services at its adoption agencies to gay couples. The Government refused.
Score: Religionists 2, Secularists 3

Shabena Begum, a Muslim schoolgirl, wanted her school to change its uniform policy so that she could wear a flowing Islamic gown. After several appeals, the courts upheld the schools right to say no.
Score: Religionists 2, Secularists 4

In Glasgow a man defining himself as an atheist was working at a Catholic school. He was denied promotion because he wasn’t of the faith. He took the school to a tribunal and won. Glasgow City Council appealed the decision, but lost and was told by the court that it had no business promoting any particular religion.
Score: Religionists 2, Secularists 5

Employment protection for tens of thousands of non-religious head teachers and non-teaching staff in various types of “faith schools” was removed by the Government at the behest of the Church of England in the recent Education and Inspections Act, despite vigorous opposition from secular parliamentarians being advised by the National Secular Society.
Score: Religionists 3, Secularists 5

A woman working for British Airways wanted to wear a crucifix over her uniform, in contravention of the company’s policy. After the usual cries of persecution from the evangelicals, and a media humiliation led by the Daily Mail, BA backed down.
Score: Religionists 4, Secularists 5

Lydia Playfoot sued her school because it refused to let her wear a “purity ring”. The court ruled in the school’s favour.
Score: Religionists 4, Secularists 6

A gay man took the Bishop of Hereford to a tribunal for blocking his appointment to a job in the diocese as a youth worker. The tribunal said the Bishop had illegally discriminated.
Score: Religionists 4, Secularists 7

An independent adjudicator ruled that the human rights of the members of the Christian Union at Exeter University had not been infringed when its funds were frozen by the University’s Student Guild. The Guild had decided that the Christian Union’s own equal opportunity policy had been violated by the Christians. The case will now go to the High Court, so, at the moment the
score: Religionists 4, Secularists 8 (Read BBC story)

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that a full-page advertisement taken out in The Times by a group of evangelical Christians to protest against the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Regulations had been misleading.
Score: Religionists 4, Secularists 9

Shambo the bull was designated as “holy” by a group of Hindus in Wales. When he tested positive for bovine TB it was ruled that he should be slaughtered. The Hindus went to court saying their human rights were being infringed. The judge agreed, but then the Court of Appeal overturned that decision and the law prevailed.
Score: Religionists 4, Secularists 10.

The point of listing these battles is that they are part of a growing pattern of determination by religious people to impose their way of life on to all of us. And they are trying to use parliament and the courts to do it."

National Secular Society, 08.03.2007
Well done!

Is it extreme to defend free speech?

"I organised the Parliamentary campaign that last year voted down – by a margin of one – a Government plan to outlaw the incitement of religious hatred. Recent outbursts by the likes of Mr Bukhari make that vote all the more crucial for freedom of expression.
Those who argue for such laws say that one should separate the person from the ideology: hate the sin but love the sinners. But I don’t just hate Nazism, for instance. I hate Nazis. We should all hate Nazis. It is not just their ideology which is loathsome, they are loathsome people. So I believe I should be entitled to incite hatred of Nazis, short of inciting violence. My words ought not to be intimidating to any Nazi of fragile disposition. But the language I used could well – I hope - be insulting to any self-respecting Nazi."

Dr Evan Harris (MP), National Secular Society, 08.03.2007

Americans Gave $97 Billion to Religion in 2006

"Americans continued to give more money to religion in 2006 than to any other organization or cause.

According to Giving USA Foundation Americans donated $295 billion in charitable contributions in 2006. About $97 billion went to religious organizations -- that is just a shade under one third of all charitable gifts. Last year, Americans gave $93 billion to religion.

Education was a distant second, receiving $41 billion (13.9 percent). Human Services received $29.6 billion (roughly 10 percent). Public-society benefit received $21.41 billion (7.3 percent) and health received $20.22 billion (6.9 percent). Arts, culture and humanities received $12.5 billion (4.2 percent) of the total, while the environment and animals received a total of $6.6 billion (2.2 percent)., Aug. 1, 2007