Saturday, December 29, 2007

I'll be back with Jesus!

One of my first posts, in April was this one:

"One in four Americans anticipates the second coming of Christ in 2007. This is one several predictions made by Americans in a recent poll for the new year.

A poll by Ipsos, an international polling firm, found that 11 percent of respondents said it is "very likely" that Jesus will return to Earth this year and 14 percent said it was "somewhat likely.""

Christian Post, Jan. 03 2007

It's December 29. 2007 now, so Jesus will be back on Monday, latest. I will return on Friday (if Jesus is not back of course).

Let's see who comes first!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rich Mayfield: It is not the time to leave religion unchallenged

"When a writer’s life is threatened for musing upon the less savory sayings of Muhammad, for instance, or when a college professor is silenced and accused of being anti-Semitic for criticizing the policies of Israel, our ability to objectively pursue intellectual insight suffers another blow. Sacrosanct belief systems can certainly be worthy of respect, even reverence, but they should hold no elevated status in an educational forum. Religions and religious systems should be subject to the same objective scrutiny as any other current or historical endeavor receives. Avoiding analyzing a religion for fear of offending its adherents makes a mockery of intellectual inquiry.
One of the great temptations of this hyper-sensitivity to religion is the current tendency to eliminate all religious references in the classroom. Appreciated or not, the Bible is arguably the most influential book in the development of Western civilization and yet most public schools shy away from offering a curriculum that includes any analysis of the book at all. Countless political movements, innumerable works of literature, causes of war and forces for peace have been shaped by biblical passages and inspired by scriptural interpretations and yet one is hard pressed to find much reference to the Bible anywhere in the classroom.

It is a prickly issue to be sure, but its difficulty should not be resolved by simply avoiding the problem."

Rich Mayfield, Summit Daily, December 14, 2007
So much religion, so little understanding and... they can't even talk about it.
It's scary as hell.

Denmark: Muslims' religiosity exaggerated

"Muslims are not as religious as the media and researchers tell us, says religious history and minority studies researchers Nadia Jeldtoft, who has studies minorities' religious identity. She thinks that Islam researchers confirm the prejudices against Muslims when they focus only on the 600-800 Muslim immigrants who are organized in associations and organizations of a religious character.
She says analysis of interviews show that the interviewees didn't attribute such a critical meaning to the religious, as most studies concluded. For them being Muslims meant being different than the majority - the religious content wasn't as dominating.", 3. dec 2007 Danish article.
Cheers to Esther at for translation!

More people say there should be less of a Christian emphasis placed on the holidays

"While a majority of American adults still believe that Jesus should be the focus of the holiday season, a growing segment of the population disagrees.
A recent poll conducted by the Rasmussen Reports found that 27 percent of respondents said that there should be less of a Christian emphasis on the holidays. That's up 10 percentage points from a year ago when just 17 percent of adults felt that way."

Star Tribune, December 24, 2007
Now that's a new one.

More than half of Europe are "fuzzy believers"

"THIS WEEK church pews will be filled with those who turn up only for high days, holidays, hatches, matches and despatches.
But this group of uncommitted believers who are attached to no particular church but who have a real and genuine interest in spiritual matters have been classified into a new denomination called "Fuzzy Fidelity" by researchers.
The headache for the established churches is that this group now makes up more than half the European population.


"The fuzzy faithful have become so numerous because people are ceasing to be actively religious much more quickly than they are becoming wholly secular," said Voas.
"The sheer size of this group means that upon their attitudes and behaviour will hang the future role of religion in Britain.


Voas has divided this group into subgroups "Spiritual Seekers" and "Sheilaists". Spiritual Seekers have beliefs about the afterlife and fate that have nothing to do with organised religion.
The term Sheilaists derives from an interview with a woman called Sheila who defined her religious conviction as: "Sheilaism: I just have a little voice in my head.""

Sunday Herald, December 27, 2007
The fuzziness is silly, but preferable of course to literal interpretation. And in a purely Darwinian sense, I think it will win over other ways to be religious, simply because people don't necessarily need to compromise either faith or reason and say: "Look, my religion forbids me to use my head. I need to pretend we're still in the bronze age". Plus, there's the added bonus of no religious bosses so there's not going to be powerful churches to mess up education and what not.

See also:
Every Fifth German Professes "Deep Religious" Convictions
"The study suggests that young people between 18 and 29 years of age in Germany have stronger religious convictions than their parents, though they don't necessarily act on them.


Nigeria, Brazil, India and Morocco reported with over 90 percent the highest rates of religiosity. In Europe, Germany ranks behind Italy and Poland, but ahead of Great Britain and France in terms of the number of practicing believers."

Deutsche Welle, 17.12.2007

Study Shows Integration Problems Among Germany's Muslims

"A study looking at the integration of Muslims in Germany has revealed that a high percentage of Islamic inhabitants harbor fundamentalist attitudes.
The survey, which was commissioned by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and carried out by the Institute of Criminology at the University of Hamburg, concluded that 40 percent of Muslims in Germany would justify the use of violence in the event of Islam being threatened by the West.
According to the study, more than 44 percent of Muslims also believe that they will be granted entry to paradise if they die defending their religion.


Schiffauer added that the social exclusion of Muslims was a problem. "Third generation young Muslims living in Germany are considered foreigners. They feel like Germans, but they are still marginalized," he said, adding that many consequently turn to Islam."

Deutsche Welle, 20.12.2007

13.4% of Norwegians visited church on Christmas eve 2006

"About 13.4 percent of the [Norwegian] population visited a church on Christmas Eve last year, up from 12.8 percent the year before, and equivalent to about an extra 35,000 visitors.
But church attendance is far more modest the rest of the year. Norwegians visited church an average of 1.4 times a year in 2006, including christenings, weddings, and funerals.
The younger generation show the least interest. A survey by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD) found that half of those under the age of 30 say they never go to church, compared to 25 percent of those over 60."

Aftenposten, 20 Dec 2007
I've always found it peculiar how a lot of people suddenly "have to go" to church during Christmas while they stay away the rest of the year. Oh, did I say "a lot"? 13.4% is not a lot. Especially when we consider it's the biggest church day throughout the year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Northern Ireland: 'Dangers of secularism'

"A new thought-provoking survey on religion has raised eyebrows across Northern Ireland. Belfast Telegraph Religion Correspondent Alf McCreary looks at the wider implications and argues that Churches need to remain aware of the dangers of secularism"

Belfast Telegraph, December 12, 2007
Haha! Yeah, we all long back to the days when religion was a matter of life and death in Northern Ireland. It is going to be a lot more dangerous now.
Anyway, let's take a look at the stats:
"For example, the survey found that only 42% of those questioned could name the four Gospels, with a 52% response from Catholics, compared with 36% from Protestants.
Other key findings were that only 54% could name the Holy Trinity (Catholics 65%, Protestants 45%) and that
only 31% could name Martin Luther as a leader of the Protestant Reformation.
A Prime Time survey in the Republic last year claimed that 67% there attended church at least monthly, whereas a Tearfund poll in the UK more recently found that the equivalent figure for Northern Ireland was 45%."
Somehow I think it would be good if the Middle East forgot who received the Koran too.

Non-believers mushroom in Switzerland

"When it comes to the growth of secularism in Switzerland, the figures speak for themselves.
More than one in ten of the Swiss population – 810,000 people – claims "no religious affiliation", up almost 60 per cent on a decade earlier.
According to Bovay, religion is no longer being passed down from the parent to child as it was in the past, and children are being allowed to decide for themselves at an earlier age.
With more young people turning away from religion and older believers dying off, Bovay expects the number of non-affiliated to increase for the foreseeable future.", August 20, 2007
It's not all well, though, because creationists are popping up too:
A heated debate over the inclusion of creationism in a school science book highlights the success Swiss evangelicals are having sowing seeds of doubt about evolution.
The debate over the textbook raises questions about why increasing numbers of Swiss are willing to turn away from science and accept creationist views that God created the earth a few thousand years ago.
But the Swiss proponents of creationism are working on fertile ground. An international survey last year found that 30 per cent of the Swiss reject evolution, one of the highest rates in Europe.", November 28, 2007

I'm too intellectual for Atheism

"One reason that I am passionate about exposing the new atheism as a stealth religion is because it distracts attention from something far more important and interesting--the proper study of religion and all forms of human mentality from an evolutionary perspective."

David Sloan Wilson, December 14, 2007
I tend to shun these "I'm too intellectual for Atheism"-articles, but after having read through his Objectivism strawman (better than the Communism strawman, but still a strawman) that he created I got interested in the above quote.
David Sloan Wilson thinks New Atheism distracts from "the proper study of religion and all forms of human mentality from an evolutionary perspective." Oh dear.
I can already hear cries from other scientists who say that politics distracts from the proper study of political science. And how about sociologists who decry feminists for distracting everyones attention from the proper study of male chauvinist patriarchy?
Religion affects our lives, and the world we live in, and we have a right to do something with it. Should people stop washing their hands so that virologists could be able to study outbreaks of interesting viruses?

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Triumph of Reason

"Moderate believers simply compound the problem by providing respectability and cover for the extremists of their ilk. Do I appreciate the more accepting people among the faithful? Sure. Ultimately, though, they are still responsible for perpetuating and propagating their worldview. If we could get to the point where the cafeteria Christians and Muslims are taken out of the equation, we could effectively stamp out the religious violence that occurs every day because it would be acceptable to excoriate faith-based belief systems. We could do exactly what Sam Harris talks about in his book, The End of Faith, which describes the effectiveness of ridicule as a tool for social change. As long as it is taboo to criticize religion, that will be impossible.


If Ms. Pollitt is looking for a one-track route to de-conversion, she'll likely be looking from now until the day that she dies. Every person is different and will respond to the arguments against religion in many ways."

Kelly O'Connor,, December 18, 2007
The first part is a familiar line for many that I agree wholeheartedly with. The last part is something that not many of the whiners realize. I keep hearing these funny solutions, like "Scandinavia has a good welfare system, so welfare will make people secular - not angry atheism". Or it may be some other solution (or most likely non-solution) that incorporates everything but honest arguments for Atheism and rational thinking.

To show how silly this is, let me dwell with the welfare state argument a bit: Scandinavia also has had protestant state churches, homogenous populations, was relieved of religious bigots when the religious bigots went to America in the 1800s, was christened so late we still call it Jul (as in Yule) instead of Christmas and we have cool languages.
I don't know, but it seems to me that welfare itself is not some magical formular for secularisation. I'm all for welfare though, but it won't be enough. (Yeah I know I said I was a Libertarian in my previous post but as it goes: "We're all social democrats". I think Post-Libertarian could be a good expression for me. )

Anyway. Most important: it so happens that religious bigotry many places blocks introduction of state welfare either directly or indirectly. What do you do then? I think it's an open question if USA becomes as secular as Norway first or starts using the same welfare state model first. I wouldn't bet that introducing the welfare state in USA is somehow the easier way to making it a godless satanic darwinian country.
Now as Kelly here points out, people are different. The God Delusion or the RRS for that matter does not work with irrational new age hippies who keep crystal pyramids under their beds. But it might work for a guy who just happened to grow up in a religious area without ever making a conscious choice to join the religion that he belongs to and who's generally a rational person.
In short, there are a few billion people in the world who are still not Atheists, and just as all these people have their particular tastes in sex, politics, interior decorating, music etc. - in the same way they will respond quite differently to Atheist arguments. So we need lots of different Atheist or secular arguments. What we don't need is that people shut up.
There's a lot of things that religious conservatives don't like: New Atheism, feminism, LGBT rights, welfare state, science and probably much more. Much, much, more. Think of these things as fronts, like in a war. The more fronts that surround them, the better. That's the perspective we need.
For instance: I'm not a feminist, but I appreciate wholeheartedly the efforts that feminists make to undermine religious conservatives to relieve women of these insane rules.

Religion is not an object with only one side. It can be attacked from many sides, and New Atheism attacks one side that is wide open.

Divorce, Religion, and Circumcision: What A Conflict Tells Us About Parental Rights

"To get a sense of how completely secular people who are not already committed to religious practices [and circumcision] might view things, consider the following analogy:
A couple tells its 5-year-old child at bedtime every night that if he ever feels any anger at his mom and dad, then a monster will come to him at night in his sleep and smother him with a pillow. Each morning, when he wakes up un-smothered, his parents tell him that if he was in fact harboring angry feelings toward them, then the monster in question will save up the smothering and one day come and suffocate him for all of eternity. Imagine, as well, that when the child reaches the age of 6, his parents remove half of their son's left pinky toe. They argue that he can walk adequately without it, and they feel a very strong compulsion to remove what they view as ugly and impure.

Most of us would find this behavior outrageous and even criminal."

Sherry F. Colb,, Nov. 28, 2007
This article deal in particular with the Boldt case were a divorced father, newly converted to Judaism wants his 12-year-old son to be circumcised, while his mother doesn't.

I'll add her closing words too (regarding the Boldt case):

"It is when parents disagree with each other and ask the courts to step in that we are uniquely able to consider some of the harm to which people expose their offspring. The Boldt case thus may, in this way, help us focus on what is otherwise "routine" in parenting and perhaps become more sensitive to the sorts of harm that we might otherwise continue to take for granted."
This is very true. I know that a lot of people will almost always prefer that the parents decide everything for the children, rather than the state. But as we can see, it's not so clear cut when parents disagree. Suddenly the question isn't about the parents' rights (because both parents have rights and they have different preferences), but about the boy's rights. And then one have to ask: Why aren't we always thinking about the rights of the children?

I've always considered myself a bit of a libertarian, or "liberalist" which is the word used here around. They are not entirely the same, and I'm in danger of mixing things here. Worse, I'm not a true libertarian, I assume. It's just the skewed perspective I have since I'm living in the Norwegian welfare state. Wanting longer opening hours to buy alcohol makes me feel like a libertarian while in USA I'd be Liberal I guess. Exhibit A: My score at the Political Compass.

Nevermind, I'm thinking about a very specific thing here that is probably common, that the state should stay out of parenting.
The idea has a flaw that sometimes becomes very ugly. It's a bit like the flaw of pacifism. It works fine as long as people won't try to kill you or torment you. But it's utter shit the moment there are malevolent murderers on your door. I'm with Sam Harris all the way on that issue.
Now, libertarianism holds that people are smart enough to chose for themselves. Perhaps. But another thing is that they also should be allowed to make their own decisions, even bad ones. I'm not optimistic about everyone's decisions, least of all my own, but not all decisions are cause of concern. Who cares if Boldt Senior chops of a piece of his dick? But should Boldt Senior be allowed to make a bad decision for Boldt junior? In general: do parents have an unalienable right to screw up their kids' life?
Among libertarians, there's always an appreciation for the individual. And I share that. But the boy who is circumcised is an individual. The girl who must wear a hijab is an individual. The children who are sent off to a loony religious school to be brainwashed are individuals. Children of Jehovas Witnesses who die because they don't get blood are individuals. The family, however, is not an individual.

Consequently: state interference is perfectly fine when it protects the rights of the children to avoid getting tortured for religious reasons by parents or getting their brains dumbed down to accept that the earth is 5000 years old.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Converts to Islam are leftists

I just came across a story about some research done in Denmark about converts to Islam, and I'll briefly translate the main points:
"130 converts (out of 4000) have been interviewed, and 1/6 of them thinks that Islam can not be combined with democracy. However, 1/2 thinks that Islam should rule society. They think that democracy is an Islamic principle and that one might as well have an Islamic society which builds upon or incorporates democratic elements.
One of the co-writers of the book["Nye muslimer i Danmark" / "New Muslims in Denmark"], Tina Gudrun Jensen, thinks that the lack of democratic understanding is due to most of the converts being leftists. "The resistance against democracy is for some of them related to them generally being critical to modern capitalist and materialistic societies. In reality, it's the same attitudes that one saw among leftists in the 60s and 70s. And in fact, a lot of the converts are very left oriented."

Nyhedsavisen: Hver sjette konvertit er imod demokratiet (20. december 2007) Konvertitter er venstreorieterede (21. december 2007)

Islam in Europe has made a proper translation to English.

Christmas abolished!

"Increasingly in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, many people, especially the more Godly, came to frown upon this celebration of Christmas, for two reasons. Firstly, they disliked all the waste, extravagance, disorder, sin and immorality of the Christmas celebrations. Secondly, they saw Christmas (that is, Christ’s mass) as an unwelcome survival of the Roman Catholic faith, as a ceremony particularly encouraged by the Catholic church and by the recusant community in England and Wales, a popish festival with no biblical justification – nowhere had God called upon mankind to celebrate Christ’s nativity in this way, they said. What this group wanted was a much stricter observance of the Lord’s day (Sundays), but the abolition of the popish and often sinful celebration of Christmas, as well as of Easter, Whitsun and assorted other festivals and saints’ days.


Specific penalties were to be imposed on anyone found holding or attending a special Christmas church service, it was ordered that shops and markets were to stay open on 25 December, the Lord Mayor was repeatedly ordered to ensure that London stayed open for business on 25 December, and when it met on 25 December 1656 the second Protectorate Parliament discussed the virtues of passing further legislation clamping down on the celebration of Christmas (though no Bill was, in fact, produced)."

"Why did Cromwell abolish Christmas?",
With all the talk about "war on Christmas" everywhere, I thought it would be appropriate to show that the only ones ever at war with Christmas were Christians themselves.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Survey finds young and old Moroccans differ on religion

"In the survey, 28.9% of respondents said religion should guide personal life, while 44.8% remain undecided. On the relationship between religion and politics, the results are broadly similar: 24.9% considered that religion becomes dangerous when mixed with politics and 26.1% felt the opposite.
Despite an overall decline in the role of religion in daily life, there is a significant proportion of Moroccans who support political Islam and Jihadist movements. In fact, the survey shows that 17.6% of the population answered "yes" when asked: "Are you in agreement with Jihadist movements?"
The survey found that the younger the respondents, the more they say they agree with Jihadist movements. "The survey shows that 21.8% of people aged 18 to 24 agree with Jihadist movements, compared with 9.7% among the 60-plus age group," said Mohamed Sghir Janjar, director of Prologue magazine."

Magharebia, 14/12/07
I guess this is both good and bad news. As for the young age of extremists, it's to be expected as young people always tend to be more radical either way and will most likely diminsh over time. The good thing is of course that only 28.9% said that religion should guide life.

Think Religion Plays a Bigger Role in Politics Today? You're Right. Statistics Prove It.

"If one looks at nearly 360 major speeches that presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush have given, the increase in religiosity is astounding. The average president from FDR to Carter mentioned God in a minority of his speeches, doing so about 47% of the time. Reagan, in contrast, mentioned God in 96% of his speeches. George H. W. Bush did so 91% of the time, Clinton 93%, and the current Bush (through year six) was at 94%. Further, the total number of references to God in the average presidential speech since 1981 is 120% higher than the average speech from 1933-1980. References to broader religious terms, such as faith, pray, sacred, worship, crusade, and dozens of others increased by 60%.


This new age is one that many past presidents would hardly recognize. One can’t help but wonder what would become of a candidate today who, like John Kennedy in 1960, “believe[s] in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair.”"

Kevin Coe and David Domke (aouthors of The God Strategy), History News Network, 17. December 2007

Carroll: America's politics of religion

When Romney and others assert that American virtues, generally summed up in the idea of "freedom," are based on faith, a cruel fact of history is being ignored. The politics of human rights, like the idea of individual freedom, were born not in religion but in the Enlightenment struggle against it.


In the very years [post war] that majorities of Europeans were walking away from organized religion, they were resolutely turning away from government-sanctioned killing, whether through war or through the death penalty; they were leaving behind narrow notions of nationalism, mitigating state sovereignty, and, above all, replacing ancient hatreds with partnerships. All of this stands in stark contrast to the United States, where the most overtly religious people in the country support the death penalty, the government's hair-trigger readiness for war, and the gospel of national sovereignty that has made the United States an impediment to the United Nations."

James Carroll, International Herald Tribune, December 17, 2007

The Real Reason the Religious Right is Losing America

"It has long been understood that popular religiosity tends to sink as education and income levels rise. It is now understood that additional factors have sped up secularization in most first world nations. An extensive economic safety net, including universal health care, has left most westerners so secure that few feel a need to seek the aid and protection of supernatural powers and they have abandoned the churches in droves. America is the last advanced democracy to feel the full impact of secularization because the Republican alliance with conservative evangelicals that constitute a third of the nation and corporate interests has succeeded in preventing the adoption of a strong safety net.
Middle class Americans are in serious danger of financial ruin if they lose their job or health insurance and mobility from poverty to the middle class is unusually low by western standards.
But here’s the twist. The very same corporations are doing all they can to turn America into a nation of materialistic, hedonistic consumers and the public has in the main gone along with the project. The results are plain to see on the entertainment TV that is a sea of the non-traditionalist values their corporate owners favor. It was the retail chains that got rid of the Blue Laws that used to keep people in church on Sunday rather than at Wal-Mart and Home Depot."

Gregory Paul,, December 16, 2007
Worth reading. Some useful links in the text too.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A depressing snapshot on society

"CYPRIOTS have little tolerance for foreigners, homosexuals and unmarried parents compared to their European counterparts, according to a new study.
Neither do they care much for exercise or reading newspapers, but they are the most religious and optimistic people in the EU, said the survey carried out by the European University in Nicosia, and published by Phileleftheros at the weekend.


When asked if Cypriot society was xenophobic, the results put Cypriots in last place among Europeans saying that immigrants contribute positively to both the economic and cultural development of their society.
Less than 40 per cent agreed with the sentiment.
"This particularly is extremely worrying if one takes into account the number of Cypriots who lived as immigrants in other countries," the report said.


"Evidently, Cypriots do not have confidence or trust in most other people and rarely think that others have good intentions."
This may appear contradictory, given that Cypriots, according to the poll, are the most religious people in Europe. Around 70 per cent say they are religious, but only 30 per cent go to church once a week, while over 40 per cent say they pray.
"While on the one hand, Cypriots appear to be the population with the closest relationship to religion, on the other hand they do not appear to practice such things as tolerance, acceptance and love for their neighbour," said the report."
Cyprus Mail, November 13. 2007
So much for the beneficial effects of religion!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Huge rise in Scots with racist prejudices

"Scots are becoming increasingly prejudiced against Muslims, according to a wide-ranging survey carried out after the terror attacks of July 2005 but before the strike on Glasgow Airport this summer."

The Herald, December 12 2007
I didn't know Islam was a race. I thought it was a religion, an opinion.

Anyway, the here's actual survey. There's a lot to read, so it's probably best to take a looks at the questions and responses first.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stats on religion: USA, Britain, Italy, France, Germany

I just feel like having drunk sour milk unknowingly, because I wrote the text below before discovering that the numbers were from December 2006. But anyway, have a look at stats from last year!

A Financial Times/Harris Poll has revealed a lot of interesting numbers on religion in USA, Britain, Italy, France and Germany. Here are some of the results I found most interesting:

As expected, Americans for a large part believe in God, so 73% is no surprise. In fact, it might as well have been higher. The French has the largest amount of Atheists, which is also no surprise. Both Britan and Germany are OK too. There are more than twice as many believers in USA as there is in Britian. That's interesting, it being often referred to as the "51st state" and all.
Now to the question of veils, France is the most trigger-happy, while USA is the most liberal. That's not so strange, but what surprised me is that USA is also a warm defender of blasphemy. While in Laicist France there are 42% who thinks blasphemy should be outlawed, and 41% who said it shouldn't, in USA 52% says blasphemy should not be outlawed. And only 31% says it should be outlawed. I find this rather heartwarming. (Unfortunately, I think Americans prefer not to take blasphemy to the courts, but rather send a well armed militia to the blasphemer.)

Anyway, it's quite clear that the French, Brits and Germans are skeptical, but not so much in a philosophical way. It's more a pragmatic attitude: no extreme displays of religion and no blasphemy either. Americans, however, like their religions loud.

Former Evangelical Minister Has a New Message: Jesus Hearts Darwin

"WN: Couldn't someone just as easily argue that we ought to obey our base instincts, since we evolved that way?
Dowd: That's where it's important to understand the direction of evolution. When we look at the pre-human world, then at human cultural evolution, we see greater spheres of cooperation, of complexity and interdependence at an ever-wider scale. At first we cooperated with family and clan; then at the level of tribe; then, later on, at the level of the kingdom; and now, at a planetary level. Our list of enemies keeps shrinking, and the people for whom we have cooperation and compassion keeps expanding. Why don't we go act on base instincts? Because it goes counter to this trajectory.
Dowd: God didn't stop communicating truth vital to human well-being thousands of years ago, when people preserved insights on animal skins. God communicates through science. Facts are God's native tongue. Who of us would let a first-century dentist fix our children's teeth? Yet every day we let first-century theologians fill our children's brains." 12.05.07
The Revelation of Evolution!

Islam’'s Silent Moderates

"I wish there were more Islamic moderates. For example, I would welcome some guidance from that famous Muslim theologian of moderation, Tariq Ramadan. But when there is true suffering, real cruelty in the name of Islam, we hear, first, denial from all these organizations that are so concerned about Islam's image. We hear that violence is not in the Koran, that Islam means peace, that this is a hijacking by extremists and a smear campaign and so on. But the evidence mounts up.

If moderate Muslims believe there should be no compassion shown to the girl from Qatif, then what exactly makes them so moderate?
When a "moderate" Muslim's sense of compassion and conscience collides with matters prescribed by Allah, he should choose compassion. Unless that happens much more widely, a moderate Islam will remain wishful thinking."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, New York Times, December 7, 2007

Faith vs. the Faithless

"When this country was founded, James Madison envisioned a noisy public square with different religious denominations arguing, competing and balancing each other’s passions. But now the landscape of religious life has changed. Now its most prominent feature is the supposed war between the faithful and the faithless. Mitt Romney didn’t start this war, but speeches like his both exploit and solidify this divide in people’s minds. The supposed war between the faithful and the faithless has exacted casualties.
The first casualty is the national community. Romney described a community yesterday. Observant Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Jews and Muslims are inside that community. The nonobservant are not. There was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious. I’m assuming that Romney left that out in order to generate howls of outrage in the liberal press.
The second casualty of the faith war is theology itself. In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics."

David Brooks, NY Times, December 7, 2007
This is actually quite scary. It has an uncanny resemblance to how Hitler made the Jews an internal enemy. However, for Romney it's more of an attempt to say: "Look, they're more deviant than me!".

Public Opinion About... Atheists

Yep, it's that time again when they survey what Americans think of various religious groups. This time the Pew Research centre has measured what people think of Mormons, and it's as depressing as always:

What Makes Us Moral

"It's the people around us who do that teaching—often quite well. Once again, however, humans aren't the ones who dreamed up such a mentoring system. At the Arnhem Zoo in the Netherlands, de Waal was struck by how vigorously apes enforced group norms one evening when the zookeepers were calling their chimpanzees in for dinner. The keepers' rule at Arnhem was that no chimps would eat until the entire community was present, but two adolescents grew willful, staying outside the building. The hours it took to coax them inside caused the mood in the hungry colony to turn surly. That night the keepers put the delinquents to bed in a separate area—a sort of protective custody to shield them from reprisals. But the next day the adolescents were on their own, and the troop made its feelings plain, administering a sound beating. The chastened chimps were the first to come in that evening. Animals have what de Waal calls "oughts"—rules that the group must follow—and the community enforces them."

Another story about evolutionary morality, showing that we're more in need for community than God to behave moral.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

You Can Prove a Negative

"A principle of folk logic is that you can’t prove a negative. Skeptics and scientists routinely concede the point in debates about the possible existence of everything from Big Foot and Loch Ness to aliens and even God. In a recent television interview on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, for example, Skeptic publisher Michael Shermer admitted as much when Stephen Colbert pressed him on the point when discussing Weapons of Mass Destruction, the comedian adding that once it is admitted that scientists cannot prove the nonexistence of a thing, then belief in anything is possible. [...] There is one big problem with this. Among professional logicians, guess how many think that you can’t prove a negative? That’s right, zero.


So why is it that people insist that you can’t prove a negative? I think it is the result of two things: (1) Disappointment that induction is not bulletproof, airtight, and infallible, and (2) A desperate desire to keep believing whatever one believes, even if all the evidence is against it. [...] Meaning: your argument against aliens is inductive, therefore not incontrovertible. Since I want to believe in aliens, I’m going to dismiss the argument no matter how overwhelming the evidence against aliens, and no matter how vanishingly small the chance of extraterrestrial abduction.
If we’re going to dismiss inductive arguments because they produce conclusions that are probable but not definite, then we are in deep manure. Despite its fallibility, induction is vital in every aspect of our lives, from the mundane to the most sophisticated science. Without induction we know basically nothing about the world apart from our own immediate perceptions. So we’d better keep induction, warts and all, and use it to form negative beliefs as well as positive ones.
You can prove a negative — at least as much as you can prove anything at all.

Steven D. Hales,, 7. December 2007

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Younger Muslims Tune In to Upbeat Religious Message

"A Muslim televangelist [...] in a stylish goatee and Western clothes, [Moez] Masoud, 29, was preaching about Islam in youthful Arabic slang. He said imams who outlawed art and music were misinterpreting their faith. He talked about love and relationships, the need to be compassionate toward homosexuals and tolerant of non-Muslims.


Masoud is one of a growing number of young Muslim preachers who are using satellite television to promote an upbeat and tolerant brand of Islam.
Television preaching in the Middle East was once largely limited to elderly scholars in white robes reading holy texts from behind a desk, emphasizing the afterlife over this life, and sometimes inciting violence against nonbelievers. But as TV has evolved from one or two heavily controlled state channels to hundreds of diverse, private satellite offerings, Masoud and perhaps a dozen other young men -- plus a few women -- have emerged as increasingly popular alternatives.


After his speech in Alexandria, an angry older woman in a black veil pushed her way to the front of the crowd. "Why don't you talk more about punishment?" she said, urging a more tough-love approach to preaching.
Masoud smiled at her and said, "Thanks for your advice.""

Washington Post, December 2, 2007
I think this is fairly good news. It won't be enough, but the more people that escape the grip of men like al-Qaradawi, the better.

By the way, I just read a conversion story at a new forum for ex-muslims yesterday. Some conversion stories are quite dramatic, but read this... Afterwards, Moez Masoud, will be even better news. Anything is better.

My journey out of the abyss by BerberElla

Atheists dominate in the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation

"The wooden doors of Castle Church were long ago replaced by ones made of bronze, but what comes as a far greater disappointment to Protestant pilgrims, especially those from America, is that only about 15 percent of Wittenberg's inhabitants identify themselves as Christian.
Most of the others proudly celebrate their atheism.
"We knew that Christianity had taken a hit during communist times, but to come here, to the land of Luther, and to find so many people outside the church, yes, it was a surprise," admitted Stephen Godsall-Myers, a Lutheran pastor from Pennsylvania.
The situation is even starker when the pilgrims make their way to the town of Eisleben, Luther's birthplace. There only 8 percent of the population calls itself Christian."

Chicago Tribune, 12/01/2007,
It's not all good news, because obviously Wittenberg attracts lots of pilgrims, but I've read about this earlier in a Norwegian article and what I find interesting is that East Germany never went back to Christianity like the other former communist countries. And one of the reasons is quite clear: the secularisation of Germany had already started before Hitler managed to screw up Germany. Quite unlike the situation in Poland and Russia. So while the communists elsewhere tried to put a lid on strong religious convictions with force, the German communists had a much easier job. At the same time, in West Germany, they used religion as a way to make up for the war.
There could be other reasons too, like the continued German efficiency, but I think the moral is that you can't force people with strong religious convictions to convert either way. After a couple of generations, OK, but 50 years won't do it. Also, have a look at a former post of mine about the current stats in Russia.

Unfortunately, the otherwise thorough Norwegian article (which most of you won't be able to read anyway) made the error that Communism and Nazism/Fascism actually agreed on religion: "they agree on the goal of a secular, atheist society". This is not true.
Nazism was certainly a threat to traditional religion, and they were for secularism, in the sense that religion should be a private matter insofar as the religion could not be changed to be more nazi-friendly. But they were not for Atheism. Spiritualism itself was more than welcome as long as it did not collide with nazi ideals and was useful to their ideology. Instead they scared people with Communist Atheism:
"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.
This is not to agree on religion. And for the inevitable religous comments about the connection between Atheism and Communism there's only one thing to say:
It's the economy, stupid!

Nigeria: Yar'Adua Reaffirms Govt's Commitment to Secularism

"President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has reaffirmed Federal government's determination to defend at all times the constitution and maintain the secularity of Nigeria so as to bequeath to the present and future generations a country where no citizen is discriminated against.
Speaking at the formal opening ceremony of the Assembly of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights at the International Conference Centre, Abuja , recently, President Yar'Adua said that the country's young democracy needs all the nurturing required to ensure its sustainability.
"In a pluralistic state such as ours, our duty is to ensure that we run a government that is a protector of all regardless of ethnic and religious affiliations. As a government, we are determined to bequeath to the present and the future generations a country where no citizen is discriminated against. We shall defend the constitution and maintain the secularity of Nigeria ""

Daily Champion (Lagos),, 26 November 2007

I'll also post this reader's letter from Namibia which I wanted to post earlier:
"In this part of the world, the notion of religious conservatism is automatically associated with Islamic extremism. Other forms of religious intolerance as manifested in Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism are seldom acknowledged.
Namibia, of course is a secular country. However, this is hardly ever mentioned in public. If anything, Namibia is characterised by religious conservatism which continues to exert a tight grip on mass consciousness.
This, regrettably, is a legacy of colonialism.

Since the mid sixties the liberated women of Europe and Latin America have refused to accept the moral authority of the church which has resulted in a downturn in mass religion there. However, the end of the Cold War left a huge ideological gap that has been filled by religious extremism especially Christian extremism. This has been noteworthy in the underdeveloped regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, with Namibia perhaps in the forefront as the most Christian society on the continent.
When are we going to have some serious debate about secularism, not necessarily atheism, in Namibia?"

The Namibian, June 8, 2007
A lot of people talk about how religions are receeding in Europe but spreading throughout Africa, but it's not like Atheism is pushed back in Africa. Christianity and Islam is pushing traditional beliefs back. There's a lot to be said about this, but there's one thing I think is interesting: Atheism is just a single principle, as we know. But as a collection of arguments, it's targeted at Christianity in particular. Most of us don't know how all those traditional religions in the world work be they from Africa or anywhere else, but we know Christianity and we're starting to know Islam too.
So my opinion is that these two religions pave the way for Atheism or at least secularism, because they make people start to talk a religious language that we understand.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Teddy the Prophet (pbuh)

New! Teddy the Prophet (pbuh). The really cute prophet who just wants peace. Very fond of teachers.

Facebook's unholy war of words troubles young Muslims

"It was the first thing she did in the morning. After joining the social network ing Web site Facebook in April, Essma Bargewee spent hours on the site daily. But the 21-year-old Montclair University student re cently deleted her account. Bargewee, a practicing Muslim, soured on the Facebook phenomenon after getting embroiled in a controversy over Facebook groups denouncing Islam and other religions. In July, a self-described atheist created a group with a name that explicitly curses Islam, angering many Facebook users."[I couldn't read pages 2 and 3]

The Star-Ledger, November 13, 2007
Now let's imagine for a second that Essma Bargwee did not sign off, but for some reason she thought the people attacking Islam made some sense. Let's say she in fact became an Atheist herself - an Apostate.
This could easily have been a lot more dangerous than merely browsing through bigoted rants at Facebook. (Touch wood.) .

So, without having seen the Facebook rants(not being a member), I think that her own religion is more dangerous. This probably explains why people start groups that are offensive to Islam. We don't like to hear that we should be killed, for various reasons. It troubles young and old Atheists, and in particular Apostates - former Muslims. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for one, can't just sign off Facebook. In fact, the internet is probably the only place she can roam freely these days. Who of all the offended Muslims at Facebook want to swap lives with Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

In the end, I have to say that I'm not in favour of blunt attacks where expletives are the most important thing. They're often accompanied with racist slurs too. My experience, however, is that most of them come from right wing Christians. In any case, making people sign off can't be the best way to make them understand?

Atheist History Month?

"Dawkins has also suggested that atheists, like gays, should come out of the closet. Well, what if they don't want to? I doubt that Dawkins would support "outing" atheists. But can an atheist "rights" group be far behind? Hate crimes laws to protect atheists? Affirmative action for unbelievers? An Atheist Annual Parade, complete with dancers and floats? Atheist History Month?
Honestly, I think the whole atheist-gay analogy is quite absurd. It seems strange for Dawkins to urge atheists to come out of the closet in the style of the all-American boy standing up on the dining table of his public high school and confessing that he is a homosexual? Dawkins, being British, doesn't seem to recognize that this would not win many popularity contests in America."

Dinesh D'Souza,, November 12, 2007
It's an interesting thought that D'Souza has stumbled upon here: "Hate crimes laws to protect atheists? Affirmative action for unbelievers? An Atheist Annual Parade, complete with dancers and floats? Atheist History Month?" I must admit I take a liking to this. But as D'Souza says: "this would not win many popularity contests in America.". Damn right, it wouldn't. Which is probably why it's needed.

Atheist History Month: One equivalent is Black History Month. According to stats posted earlier, 4 % says they are less likely to vote for a black presidential candidate in USA, while 63% are less likely to vote for non-believer. There's also National Hispanic Heritage Month, and 14% would not vote for a Hispanic candidate
Atheist Annual Parade: The equivalent is the gay parades. 46% would not vote for a homosexual. That's a lot, but 63% is more.
Hate crimes laws: Obviously needed, although I suspect Atheists are already covered (unless for a change they don't count Atheism as a religion)
Affirmative Action for unbelievers: This usually covers race and gender. Stats for Black and Hispanics have been mentioned, and only 11% would reject a female candidate. 7% would reject a disabled candidate. Again: 63% would reject an Atheist candidate.

OK, so let's see which group is most reviled among Americans:

63% do not want an Atheist candidate
46% do not want a homosexual candidate
14% do not want a Hispanic candidate
11% do not want a female candidate
7% do not want a disabled candidate
4% do not want a black candidate

I think Atheists are presently the most hated group. Please inspect the stats below if you disagree. Now, I'm not one to argue for parades or affirmative action, not for Atheists nor anyone else, but Atheist History Month would probably be very useful in USA, considering that a lot of the bigotry stems from ignorance!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Terror: Can We Blame Religion?

"In the wake of recent terror attacks, Western society has jumped to an easy and, it might seem, obvious conclusion. [blabla] [Sam Harris] contends that religion propagates myths that are dangerous, and that the world would be far better off without them. [blabla] What both Harris and Dawkins seem to overlook, however, is that religion has never been the unique instigator of violence. [blabla] The Soviet Union was a professedly secular society. [blabla] And there are more recent examples. Saddam Hussein led an Iraqi nation that “was thoroughly secular, [ruled] by a western-style legal code,” according to Gray."

Donald Winchester, Vision, Summer 2007 issue
Heard it all before right? Neither Harris nor Dawkins ever "overlooked" this straw man. It has been repeatedly rebutted, and just as often repeated again by believers. Here, Mr Donald Winchester, take a look at the famous "Problem with Atheism"-speech of Sam Harris.
"So too with the “greatest crimes of the 20th century” argument. How many times are we going to have to counter the charge that Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot represent the endgame of atheism? I’ve got news for you, this meme is not going away. I argued against it in The End of Faith, and it was immediately thrown back at me in reviews of the book as though I had never mentioned it. So I tackled it again in the afterword to the paperback edition of The End of Faith; but this had no effect whatsoever; so at the risk of boring everyone, I brought it up again in Letter to a Christian Nation; and Richard did the same in The God Delusion; and Christopher took a mighty swing at it in God is Not Great.
Did they overlook it? No, Donald Winchester overlooked it.
In a surprisingly (for him) nuanced comment he writes this:
"Does this mean that atheism or secularism is to blame for such slaughter? It would be hard to argue this. It simply shows that in these cases religion is not the cause of violence and terror. The absence of religion did not equal the absence of violence; the Jacobin Terror and Stalin’s purges demonstrate as much. On the other hand, the Spanish Inquisition and Islamic terrorism show that atheism is not the sole cause either. Indeed, many religionists are largely peaceful, as are many secularists. To ascribe the urge to violence to either is plainly unreasonable. Instead, we must search deeper."
That absence of religion does not mean absence of violence is pretty clear. We do not promise a world without violence. But what makes religions particularly dangerous when it comes to violence is that they are not falsifiable. Communism, as horrible as it was, is de facto falsified. We have all seen that it didn't work. While Christianity and Islam both promise an afterlife, Marx promised a paradise on here on Earth. And while there are lots of comparisons between religion and Marxism, the fact is that all communist regimes quickly turned sour. The experiment didn't work, and we have seen it with our own eyes. No such experiment will satisfy religious people, because their evidence will only come after death. The fact that living in the Middle East is probably worse than living in the USSR does not mean anything to them, because they expect a better life when they're dead.
So while Atheists can and will start wars in the future, they can not rest upon strange beliefs that can't be rationally discussed. Silly ideas won't last 2000 years.
Further, the argument about Stalin has magnitude as one aspect. But I think Winchester knows all too well that if the Spanish Inquisition had all the fancy new weapons of Stalin, they'd kill a lot more people. The crusades would have been much more effective too. I'm not sure, but I think that 911 probably set some world record as well. Not anywhere near the damage of the nuclear bombs dropped by the (so I hear) Christian country of USA, but you get the point. So as time passes, terrorists or religious fanatics in power are armed with better weapons and can inflict much more damage than the Spanish Inquisition could ever dream of(and I'm sure they did). I don't know what kind of nukes Iran are working on, but I bet they'll be more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb.
But let's hear more from Winchester:
"Stalin and Hussein aimed for unbridled power; the Jacobins, like today’s al-Qaeda, hoped to convert the world to their own worldview. Even Dawkins’s and Harris’s recent tomes fall inside this tradition, belonging to a genre of books that is among the most ideologically violent in modern publishing."
Yeah, right. How many people have Dawkins and Harris killed? Ideologically violent... al-Qaeda blabla. This is simply nonsense, and it shows how dishonest the anti-Atheist bigotry is. (Sorry, if this blog post equals an attack by al-Qaeda)

In the end, I refer everyone to this brilliant story I posted earlier:
"Then there's the problem on the other side -- among the atheists such as Richard Dawkins who have been labelled "fanatics." Now, it is absolutely true that Dawkins' tone is often as charming as fingernails dragged slowly down a chalkboard. But just what is the core of Dawkins' radical message?

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

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

Dan Gardiner, The Ottawa Citizen, May 05, 2007

The Blasphemy Collection

"The concept of blasphemy seemed for some decades to be in decline in the West, but not any more. It may be useful to look back at some recent cases of militantly religious outrage..."

Times, October 26, 2007
A fun story, listing some important blasphemies, the impact and how many people were killed in revenge and so on.

His Atheist Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

"I'm Buddhist, I'm a Buddhist practitioner. So actually I think that according to nontheistic Buddhist belief, things are due to causes and conditions. No creator. So I have faith in our actions, not prayer. Action is important. Action is karma. Karma means action. That's an ancient Indian thought. In nontheistic religions, including Buddhism, the emphasis is on our actions rather than god or Buddha. So some people say that Buddhism is a kind of atheism. Some scholars say that Buddhism is not a religion — it's a science of the mind.

Do you agree with that?

Oh, yes. I even consider Buddha and some of his important followers like Nagarjuna (one of Buddha's leading disciples) to be scientists. Their main method is analytical. Analyze, analyze — not emphasis on faith. And these masters are not magicians. (Jokingly pretends to clip me around the head and laughs.)"

Japan Times, Sunday, December 02, 2007

Atheists Hold Sway Among American Left

"Secular liberals, and especially those who are explicitly nonbelievers, have become a major force on the political left. Researchers have found, for example, that delegates to the Democratic National Convention - the politically-active folks who nominate the Democratic candidate for the American presidency - are more than twice as likely to be completely secular as the population-at-large.


To my knowledge, for example, Senator Hillary Clinton has never thanked the atheist community for what will no doubt prove to be energetic support for her presidential candidacy. Why is this? Nonbelievers might justifiably ask Mrs. Clinton and other Democratic leaders for the credit they truly deserve."

CBS News, December 2. 2007
Interesting, although I think the last lines says clearer what the real situation is: that leftist atheists are merely "cattle". Currently, they are not many enough to excert pressure. When that situation changes, the presidential candidates for the Democrates will have to spend less time in churches. I'm only watching this from abroad with half an eye, but it seems to me that while the Republicans feel the ties with evangelicals have damaged them(and probably vice versa), and try to distance themselves from them, Clinton (especially) want to attract religious voters. Barack Obama is more reasonable, but then his parents weren't believers as far as I understand.

Execute gays?

Two stories on execution of gays from respectively Muslims and Christians.

Norway: Islamic Council turns to European Fatwa Council for ruling on homosexuals

Jim Rudd on Gays: Arrest, Imprison, and Execute Gays in the Name of God?

Is Atheism a Religion? Defining Atheism and Religion

"Many Christians seem to believe that atheism is a religion, but no one with a fair understanding of both concepts would make such a mistake. Because it’s such a common claim, though, it’s worth demonstrating the depth and breadth of the errors being made. Presented here are the characteristics which best define religions, distinguishing them from other types of belief systems, and how atheism utterly fails to even remotely match any of them.

[goes on to explain these conditions]

Belief in Supernatural Beings:

Sacred vs Profane Objects, Places, Times:

Ritual Acts Focused on Sacred Objects, Places, Times:

Moral Code With Supernatural Origins:

Characteristically Religious Feelings:

Prayer and Other Forms of Communication:

A Worldview & Organization of One’s Life Based on the Worldview:

A Social Group Bound Together by the Above:"

About Atheism, November 12. 2007

What Interests (Religious) Conservatives Most?

"What a person reads says something about them — about their interests, personality, and attitudes. What a group or movement reads also surely says something about both the group generally and the individual members.


According to the Conservapedia Statistics page on November 26, 2007, the "most viewed pages" on Conservapedia are:

1. Main Page? [1,949,393]
2. Homosexuality? [1,773,481]
3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis? [518,380]
4. Homosexuality and Parasites? [453,027]
5. Homosexuality and Promiscuity? [422,571]
6. Gay Bowel Syndrome? [404,480]
7. Homosexual Couples and Domestic Violence? [374,426]
8. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea? [332,257]
9. Homosexuality and Anal Cancer? [294,820]
10. Homosexuality and Mental Health? [294,197] "

About Atheism, November 29, 2007
No wonder they weren't satisfied with Wikipedia.

On Atheism and Hope

"Surprisingly, I actually agree with Pope Benedict about [Marx]. His essay rightly points out that Marx never offered anything like a blueprint for a just society, assuming that problem would resolve itself once the overthrow of the upper class was complete.
That said, to use the misguided ideas of a single man as a sweeping excuse to dismiss all non-religious philosophies is a most dishonest tactic. Communist regimes undoubtedly committed terrible crimes, but for the pope to attack communism as if it constituted the entire spectrum of atheist thought is irresponsible and deceptive. Like many religious apologists, Pope Benedict is stuck in the past, repeatedly attacking an obsolete historical doctrine rather than address the views held by the majority of atheists today."

Daylight Atheism, December 2, 2007
Yes, the Pope did not attack Atheism, but a straw man. It's an argument I've heard too many times. He tied Atheism to Marxism and by attacking the pretty dead ideology of Marxism, he thought he attacked Atheism, but that's far from the truth. Think of Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and Hitchens... who of them is a Marxist? None. Hitchens used to be, but is not anymore as most of his former fans will know all too well.

So until "New Atheists" actually try to spread Marxism, it's futile and dishonest to misrepresent Atheism as Marxism.

Feminist author Taslima Nasreen rewrites novel after death threats from Muslim extremists

"Today she relented under pressure and said that “controversial lines” relating to Islam from the autobiographical novel would be removed.
“The book was written in 2002, based on my memories of Bangladesh in the 1980s, during which time secularism was removed from the Bangladesh constitution. I wrote the book in support of the people who defended secular values. I had no intention to hurt anybody’s sentiment,” she said today from a secret location.
“I have done what I have never done in my life. I have compromised even in a secular India.” She added that she hoped she would now be able to “live peacefully” in India."

Times Online, November 30, 2007
Does Islam threaten free speech? Let me think, yes. I haven't been following the latest development here, but I'll post links to a couple of stories from November about her:

Religious Extremists Riot; Taslima Nasreen Leaves Calcutta
from About Agnosticism / Atheism

India - Feminist Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin in government safe house following violent protests by Muslim extremists
from IFEX All Regions

Taslima episode: analysis of failure of secularism in West Bengal (News From Bangladesh)
from Yahoo! News

Taslima offered a safe haven after riots
Times, 28 November 2007

Taslima reveals weaknesses in India's commitment to secularism
Times of India, 27 November 2007

Muslim fanatics oppose Taslima’s return
Hindustan Times, 25 November 2007

Writer leaves Calcutta after riot
from Internet Infidels News wire

Taslima Nasreen persecuted in India
The Australian, 23 November 2007

I have no respect or tolerance for Sharia

"But what has been particularly nauseating has been the British government's handling of the affair. According to the Foreign Office, they were "very disappointed" at the verdict. Really? Why didn't they simply say that the next aid bundle to Sudan, worth nearly £200m, was off the table and if anything further happened to the woman then crippling sanctions would be applied? But no, instead we got a load of mealy-mouthed rubbish about how this was a localised incident, that it didn't represent Islam and hopefully we can all hold hands and sing songs around the proverbial camp fire. But the problem is that this is representative of Islam." Ian O'Doherty, Irish Independent, December 03 2007
A hard hitting comment here and he goes on to list lots of Sharia episodes around the world.

The unfortunate teacher in Sudan has been freed, btw.
Protestors mob British embassy in Sudan as teddy row teacher is freed

I saw someone had used this teddybear below as an avatar at and thought it was rather funny. The guy even had a very apt comment on the Pope's latest attack on Atheism( i.e. Marxism.)

Here's an improvement on democracy

"Consider some dates. Native Americans got the vote in the United States in 1924. Spanish women were given the same privilege in 1931, French women in 1944. Lords of the Realm in the United Kingdom could not vote in parliamentary elections until 1999. Although democracy began in Athens two and a half thousand years ago, it was for centuries a fragile flower and has blossomed only recently.
Democracy, we tell ourselves, is a hallmark of “the West”, the treasure that the rest of the World envies and that accounts for the pre-eminence of Europe and North America in economic progress, intellectual dominance and moral freedoms.
But it's not the case when you examine the chronology. The rise of the West had much less to do with democracy than with the rise of secularism. The West's advance was chiefly related to the decline in the influence of religion that sought the truth by “looking in” to see what God had to say, and its replacement by looking out, deriving authority from observation, experimentation and exploration."

Peter Watson, The Times, December 1, 2007
It's very true. Democracy rests on the idea that the population can rationally discuss and select the best options. But what if people aren't rational?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

To Bash Or Not To Bash: The Debate Secular Humanists Do Not Need

"Some of us are bogging down in a debate over whether the promotion of secular humanism should involve "bashing" religion, or whether we should only focus on presenting humanism in a positive light. The answer is that both are necessary components of the secular humanist message, depending on the individual circumstances of each encounter, each audience, and each forum.


When we fear being accused of "religion bashing," we are buying into the trap our opponents have set for us. Republicans can criticize the political philosophy of Democrats and vice versa. Socialists and capitalists can criticize each other's basic worldview. Religionists, however, have insidiously snuck into the public consciousness the notion that religious doctrines deserve special insulation from criticism, ridicule, and doubt.


If we allow religionists to censor the words and arguments we use in our struggle to educate society in favor of secularism, we are essentially letting the fox guard the henhouse. Our society will never be receptive to a secular message so long as popular culture considers criticism of religion to be out-of-bounds."

Edward Tabash, Council for Secular Humanism
Btw, have a listen to this podcast with an interview with Tabash.

(Cheers to Skeptikeren.)

Apostasy is a right, not a crime

""There is no compulsion in religion" declares a famous verse (2:256).

How then came the ban on apostasy? Well, it was a political, not religious, verdict that soon became a part of the religious canon. David Forte, professor of Law at Cleveland State University, explains this fact very briefly and vividly in his article titled "Islam's Trajectory."
"The primary justification for the execution of the apostate is," he notes: "That in the early days of Islam, apostasy and treason were in fact synonymous. War was perennial in Arabia. It never stopped. To reject the leader of another tribe, to give up on a coalition, was in effect to go to war against him. There was no such thing as neutrality. There were truces, but there was never permanent neutrality. It is reported, for example, that immediately after the death of Mohammed, many tribes apostatized. They said in effect, "the leader whom we were following is gone, so let's go back to our own leaders.' And they rebelled against Muslim rule. The first caliph, Abu Bakr, ordered such rebels to be killed.
Many scholars argue that the tradition that all apostates had to be killed had its origin during these wars of rebellion and not during Mohammed's time. In fact, many argue that these traditions in which Mohammed affirmed the killing of apostates were apocryphal, made up later to justify what the empire had been doing."


The second thing that the origin of the apostasy ban shows is that Islamic sources need a serious reconsideration. What most Muslims attach themselves to as divine commandments are actually the political and cultural codes of the early centuries of Islam, which were, to be sure, man-made facts. The divine principles of a religion should remain eternally valid, but not its historical context."

Turkish Daily News, November 3, 2007
Higher criticism would be needed indeed.

Quebec secularizes religious education

"As of next September, parents in Quebec will have no choice but to send their children to a secularized “one-size-fits-all” course on moral education, the National Post reported.
Even private religious schools will be required to offer the course. Called Ethics and Religious Culture, it which will give equal emphasis to Christianity, Judaism, aboriginal spirituality, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.


Many observers are worried that the course’s relativistic approach will make it even harder for parents with orthodox beliefs and teachers in faith-based schools to communicate their values to the next generation."

Today's Family News, November 7, 2007
Yes, it will make it harder for fanatics to brainwash their children. Not bad at all. Take a look at a summary of the program here. (PDF) Alternative and longer story here, from