Monday, August 25, 2008

Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment

"Sociologist Zuckerman spent a year in Scandinavia seeking to understand how Denmark and Sweden became “probably the least religious countries in the world, and possibly in the history of the world.” While many people, especially Christian conservatives, argue that godless societies devolve into lawlessness and immorality, Denmark and Sweden enjoy strong economies, low crime rates, high standards of living and social equality. Zuckerman interviewed 150 Danes and Swedes, and extended transcripts from some of those interviews provide the book's most interesting and revealing moments."

Publishers Weekly, 8/11/2008

Considering the sheer amount of American Christians who refer to the Soviet Union as a prime example of what an irreligious society can be like, this should provide some food for thought.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Christianity 'could die out within a century'

"Research by the Orthodox Jewish organisation Aish found that just over a third of people thought religions like Christianity and Judaism would still be practiced in Britain in 100 years' time.
Although four in 10 people said they would choose to be a member of the Christian religion, almost the same number said they would rather practice no religion at all.
Buddhism however, proved more attractive than both Islam and Judaism, and was chosen by nine per cent of those questioned.
Aish UK's executive director Rabbi Naftali Schiff said the results of the YouGov poll of 2,000 people were alarming.
"It clearly demonstrates that religion, including Judaism, is becoming unattractive to the British public."


Research published earlier this year suggested that church attendance is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation.
According to Religious Trends, an analysis of religious practice in Britain, the huge drop off in attendance means that the Church of England, Catholicism and other denominations will become financially unviable.
In contrast, the number of actively religious Muslims is predicted to increase from about one million today to 1.96 million in 2035., 20/06/2008

No cause for alarm!
And for the panic mongers, this will definitely affect Islam too. Practising Muslims prefer to live in religious countries, even if they are Christian, and probably for good reasons.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Research Suggests Militant Jihadists Are Inspired By Night Dreams

"This is the conclusion of a study of the reported dreams of many of the best-known al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders carried out by Dr Iain Edgar a social anthropologist at Durham University.
Edgar identified four key themes from his research:

* Militant jihadists are inspired by night dreams
* Militant jihadists legitimize their actions partly on the basis of night dreams
* The inspirational night dream can be more 'real' than reality, connecting the individual to a mythical past
* Militant Jihadism can be directly authorized by dream content"

Medical News Today, 09 Jun 2008
Interesting, and slightly worrying, but after a quick search in the hadith it doesn't seem like such a big surprise after all.
Check out this link to the USC-MSA hadith collection and do a search for "Dream" in all four hadith collections, and you will get approximately 170 hits.

Here's one from the Bukhari collection:
"Volume 1, Book 5, Number 260: Narrated Maimuna:
The Prophet took the bath of Janaba. (sexual relation or wet dream). He first cleaned his private parts with his hand, and then rubbed it(that hand) on the wall (earth) and washed it. Then he performed ablution like that for the prayer, and after the bath he washed his feet. "

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Øystein Elgarøy - the Christian defender who became an Atheist

I came across an interesting deconversion story in the Norwegian Fri Tanke magazine( for Norwegian humanists). I briefly translated a short quote from it and posted it at the Richard Dawkins-forum, and then I was asked to do a full translation for the frontpage, and happy to be at service I did so. So now I'll post it here as well.
It seemed to have struck a chord with people. I mean, we all like deconversion stories, but Øystein Elgarøy, professor of astrophysics, isn't the average ex-christian, so the reasoning here is definitely more intellectual than emotional.
The interview was done, and well done at that, by Even Gran.

A short while ago professor of astrophysics Øystein Elgarøy was a profiled liberal Christian who defended his faith in articles and at debates. But then he discovered that he actually agreed more with his opponents.

The first time the undersigned got acquainted with Øystein Elgarøy was at a debate about faith and science at a pub in Oslo, autumn 2005.
Elgarøy sat there with all his ballast as a professor of astrophysics and assured the audience that there are no conflicts between his field of research and God's existence. On the contrary, what we know of the cosmos points to there in fact being a god, he thought. The arguments from the Atheists in the panel, among others professor of biology, Dag Hessen, bounced off.

A little later, in 2006, the book "Tro og vitenskap – sammenheng eller sammenstøt"("Faith and science – connection or conflict") was released by the Christian publisher Lunde Forlag. Elgarøy contributed here too, and there was no doubt that his answer to the title was "connection".

– There is a beautiful symmetry and simple laws that govern nature. [...] Where I see God's hand clearest is in the beauty of these laws of nature, said Elgarøy in the interview he gave together with the nun and astrophysicist Katrina Pajchel in the beginning of the book.

But all this happened before he one Sunday in January this year heard a debate between the Atheist Christopher Hitchens and the theologian Alister McGrath.

Most in agreement with the opponent

– Suddenly I realized that it was much easier to agree with Hitchens than with McGrath. To put it short, I agreed more with the person I should disagree with. I then realised that I had to take the consequence of this. I could no longer live on an illusion. You might say that this Sunday became a turning point of sorts, Elgarøy says to

He says that this of course had matured within him for quite a while. The disappointment over the book "The Dawkins Delusion" by the same McGrath was one of the factors. In this book McGrath tries to rebut the Atheist Richard Dawkins' attack on faith in the book "The God Delusion".

– I read McGrath's book hoping to find some good answers to the challenges from Dawkins, but the book was a genuine disappointment. While reading it struck me that "is this really the best answer a theologian can come up with?" I don't think he came up with any good arguments. It was a surprisingly weak answer in many ways, says Elgarøy.

Irrational to believe without reason

He adds that even if both Dawkins and Hitchens are imprecise and may not come up with the most sophisticated arguments against religious faith, it's hard for Christians to come up with good answers to the main accusation that there's no empirical evidence for Christianity, or any other religion, being true.

– And that's not enough for me. As a scientist and astrophysicist I am used to rejecting hypotheses that don't cut it. That's what after a while made it hard for me to hold on to the hypothesis about God. I could not support it rationally, and realised in the end that I could not live with that there should be an exception for just this question. That's probably what I realised that Sunday in January, he says.

– So you're not an adherent to the widespread idea that religion and science are "two non-overlapping spheres"?

– I used to think so. But I can't really see any reason to believe that there's anything more than one reality. Religious allegations then becomes allegations about this one reality, and then they will also have to accept critical examination, as well as being rejected if they don't measure up.

– You say that you could not support the faith in God rationally. Are you saying that it is irrational to believe in God?

– Yes, I think so. It is irrational to hold on to something that simply is not the best explanation, and which has no empirical support. When one is examining the Christian notion of God, it just ends up as a fanciful idea, he says.

Elgarøy points out that there are so many other strange things too, that you're forced to accept if you want to be a Christian. A lot of stuff goes with it that makes it even harder to believe.

– Healing and miracles for example. As a scientist I can't believe that things like this happens now, and then it becomes difficult to believe that it might have happened 2000 years ago as well. Another problem is why one isn't instead a Muslim or Hindu. How can Christians say that they are right and the others are wrong, when they don't have any empirical evidence to build upon? When I was a Christian I could not come up with any good answers to this, he says.

The existence of evil was also something that bothered Elgarøy.

– There's so much going on in the world that is inconsistent with the existence of a benevolent and almighty god, and I think the Christian attempts to answer this are far-fetched and hapless, he says.

A relief to be spared from defending the faith

After a while Elgarøy realised that things fall better into place if the starting point is that there's no god, and that everything is created by humans.

– Reality and theory cohere better this way. If humans have created God and religions, and not the other way round, then it explains most of the paradoxes that Christians are struggling with today. As an example, it's not a problem that evil exists if everything around us is a result from natural processes that don't separate between good and evil. All the variations within and between religions, are no mystery either if your starting point is that only humans have created religions. But for a person with a Christian view of life, all of this is a great problem, he says.

– How did you react personally to the loss of faith?

– It was no sad experience. Absolutely not. It felt liberating. Suddenly I was free to use my energy on better things than defending self-contradictory religious dogmas and justify that I still called myself "Christian". It was a relief to let go of this, he says.

He adds that he never really had any strong religious experiences as many other believers report they've had. Therefore, this has not been a loss for him either.

Article in "Kirke og kultur" started the process

Øystein Elgarøy grew up in a family that was active in "Den evangelisk-lutherske frikirke", and during his teens he was a rather conservative Christian.

– In the beginning I found all the answers I needed in the Bible, but as I grew older, and started to study, I realised that conservative Christianity did not measure up. I became more and more liberal, and in the end there wasn't much left other than that I "believed that there perhaps exists a god". And then it starts wearing a little thin, he says.

However, it's only a few years ago that he really got interested in the relationship between faith and science.

– Around 2004-2005 I was asked to write an article for the periodical "Kirke og kultur" ("Church and culture") about the relationship between Christian faith and my field of research, cosmology. Before this I merely separated faith and science into two spheres, and didn't think much more about it. But through the work with this article, I was forced to think about the borders for my field of research and my own faith. The work made me more aware of what one can really know. You might say that this article in Kirke og Kultur was the beginning of my departure from Christian faith, Elgarøy says.

Liberal Christian relativism becomes meaningless

Elgarøy doesn't fancy the liberal Christianity with an abstract concept of God and which says that whether God "exists in reality" really isn't that important.

– That's not enough for me. This relativism that the liberal Christians are up to is just nonsense. Whether or not there's a god, is an important question. That God exists "in the eye", "in the language" and "as a concept" there's no doubt about. But that's after all not what Christianity is about. The question is whether or not there exists a personal god that that has created everything we know. If one can't make oneself to believe in this concrete personal image of God, then one is not Christian, as I see it.

He can't do other than see this as an either/or question.

– Either one believes in this god, or one doesn't. Either Christianity is true, or it's untrue. There's nothing between, Elgarøy says.

– Do you think that liberal Christians' relativisation and abstraction of God is an attempt to make their own faith easier to defend?

– Yes, I think that's true for many of them. It was like this for me at least. I resorted to this strategy to escape from the notion of God that I after a while found more and more difficult to defend rationally, that is the belief in the really existing, personal, creation and conscious god. But one can't get around that this personal notion of God is of vital importance for the Christian faith, he says.

– Mankind is the only source of moral and ethics.On the way out the astrophysicist is asked if he wants the latest paper version of Fri Tanke, that just arrived from the printers. But it's not needed, we learn.

– I probably get it in the mail. You see I just joined Human-Etisk Forbund, he says.

– What made you do it?

– It felt natural. It's very important for me that it's possible to have morality and ethics without God. Not even when I considered myself a Christian I based my morality and ethics in the Bible and the word of God. As I see it, it's only the ethics that starts with humans and human reason that holds water, he says.


Øystein Elgarøy (born 1972) is a professor in Astrophysics. He was only 27 years old when he did his Ph.D. a work he received H.M. the King's gold medal for. Elgarøy had by then published eleven scientific works. In 2004 he received Fridtjof Nansen's award for younger scientists.
In the 1990s Elgarøy was active in Norges Kristelige student– og skoleungdomslag, and has during the 2000s made a word for himself in the public as a defender of Christian faith.
Now he has abandoned the faith and joined Human-Etisk Forbund.(The Norwegian Humanist association)

Fri Tanke, 16.06.2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Religion is ‘the new social evil’

"A CHARITY set up by an ardent Christian to fight slavery and the opium trade has identified a new social evil of the 21st century - religion. A poll by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovered a widespread belief that faith - not just in its extreme form - was intolerant, irrational and used to justify persecution. Pollsters asked 3,500 people what they considered to be the worst blights on modern society, updating a list drawn up by Rowntree, a Quaker, 104 years ago. The responses may well have dismayed him. The researchers found that the “dominant opinion” was that religion was a “social evil”. Many participants said religion divided society, fuelled intolerance and spawned “irrational” educational and other policies. One said: “Faith in supernatural phenomena inspires hatred and prejudice throughout the world, and is commonly used as justification for persecution of women, gays and people who do not have faith.”
Many respondents called for state funding of church schools to be ended."

The Sunday Times, April 20, 2008

An excerpt from the report:
"There was disagreement among participants around the issue of religion. Some identified the decline of religion in society as a social evil. [...]
A more dominant opinion, however, stood in stark contrast to this: some people identified religion itself as a social evil. This group generally focused on one of three issues: the “erosion of secularism”; religion as cause of intolerance and conflict; and religion as a source of irrationality."

What are today’s social evils? The results of a web consultation (Pages 30-31) (PDF, 418KB)
See also:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions

"Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions


Shared misconceptions:

Everything is an adaptation produced by natural selection

Natural selection is the only means of evolution

Natural selection leads to ever-greater complexity

Evolution produces creatures perfectly adapted to their environment

Evolution always promotes the survival of species

It doesn't matter if people do not understand evolution

"Survival of the fittest" justifies "everyone for themselves"

Evolution is limitlessly creative

Evolution cannot explain traits such as homosexuality

Creationism provides a coherent alternative to evolution

Creationist myths:

Evolution must be wrong because the Bible is inerrant

Accepting evolution undermines morality

Evolutionary theory leads to racism and genocide

Religion and evolution are incompatible

Half a wing is no use to anyone

Evolutionary science is not predictive

Evolution cannot be disproved so is not science

Evolution is just so unlikely to produce complex life forms

Evolution is an entirely random process

Mutations can only destroy information, not create it

Darwin is the ultimate authority on evolution

The bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex

Yet more creationist misconceptions

Evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics."

New Scientist, 16 April 2008

Have a look at the article to check out each myth!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The necessity of combating relativism

"In saying this, we must note that atheists are not immune from unreasoned dogma. Religion is not the only place where one can go to find doctrines that promote death and human suffering.
Europe, though being more 'atheist' than America, also suffers from the influence of atheist dogmas that are as anti-science as any religion. The list of popular philosophies in Europe include post-modernism and cultural relativism, both of which condemn the idea that we can have actual knowledge of the real world. These dogmas have been as effective at holding the European culture back scientifically and economically as creationism has been in America. Focusing on religious dogmas and their harmful effects is just a part of the problem.
In fact, the philosophies of post-modernism and cultural relativism point to an important case of atheist scapegoating. Many 'new atheists' have accused religious moderates of shielding religious extremists by preventing criticism against the harshest forms of their religion. However, they did not mention the fact that these non-religious philosophies are an even greater obstacle to criticizing fundamentalist religions. It's from these philosophies, not from religious moderates, that we get the idea that no culture may criticize another. Religious moderates, in contrast, still held to the possibility of moral and objective truths.", Mar 6, 2008
This is a very important point being raised.

I don't agree with all sentiments. Relativism is not as retarded as creationism after all, and it's nowhere as widespread in Europe as creationism/ID is in USA. The problem is that relativism is more popular among the elite, instead of among the unedumecated. That makes it dangerous, because these are decision makers.

Further, I need to point out that New Atheists do spend some time criticizing relativism. So it's not true that it's not mentioned. For instance, I'll quote some examples from the the New Atheist books:

"The general retort to relativism is simple, because most relativists contradict their thesis in the very act of stating it. Take the case of relativism with respect to morality: moral relativists generally believe that all cultural practices should be respected on their own terms, that the practitioners of the various barbarisms that persist around the globe cannot be judged by the standards of the West, nor can the people of the past be judged by the standards of the present. And yet, implicit in this approach to morality lurks a claim that is not relative but absolute. Most moral relativists believe that tolerance of cultural diversity is better, in some important sense, than outright bigotry. This may be perfectly reasonable, of course, but it amounts to an overarching claim about how all human beings should live. Moral relativism, when used as a rationale for tolerance of diversity, is self-contradictory."

Sam Harris, The End of Faith (Page 179, The Demon of Relativism)

"It is the source of squirming internal conflict in the minds of nice liberal people who, on the one hand, cannot bear suffering and cruelty, but on the other hand have been trained by postmodernists and relativists to respect other cultures no less than their own. Female circumcision is undoubtedly hideously painful, it sabotages sexual pleasure in women (indeed, this is probably its underlying purpose), and one half of the decent liberal mind wants to abolish the practice. The other half, however, 'respects' ethnic cultures and feels that we should not interfere if 'they' want to mutilate 'their' girls."

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Pages 328-9, Childhood Abuse and Religion)

"The more one learns of the different passionately held convictions of peoples around the world, the more tempting it becomes to decide that there really couldn't be a standpoint from which truly universal moral judgments could be constructed and defended. So it is not surprising that cultural anthropologists tend to take one variety of moral relativism or another as one of their enabling assumptions. Moral relativism is also rampant in other groves of academia, but not all. It is decidedly a minority position among ethicists and other philosophers, for example, and it is by no means a necessary presupposition of scientific open-mindedness.
We don't have to assume that there are no moral truths in order to study other cultures fairly and objectively; we just have to set aside, for the time being, the assumption that we already know what they are."

Daniel C. Dennett, Breaking The Spell (Pages 375-6, Some More Questions About Science)
Also Hitchens briefly calls it the "morally lazy practice of relativism" in "God is not Great". He's hardly one to bend over for relativists anyway. And generally, you'll notice when you read Atheist blogs, and in Atheist forums, that most Atheists are firmly rooted in a mixture of common sense and scientific thinking. The Black Sun Journal has made a number of posts on this issue.
Anyway, with relativism this whole New Atheist thing would be meaningless, and no-one would care.

The question is of course: is it enough?
No, I don't think so.

Consider these facts:
1. The Pope in particular, and a lot of other religious conservatives constantly raise the point about relativism, as a disease of modern society. The underlying (or overt) message is that without God, there's not point in being moral, and that secularism will lead to relativism. Their major gripe with modernity is that morality has become a matter of opinion.
(I subscribe to a Google News feed that gives me a note in the Google Reader whenever there's a news item with the word "relativism" mentioned. The Pope crops up regularly, and most of the others tend to be religious conservatives attacking secularism.)
2. Most of the non-religious criticism levelled at the New Atheists come from relativists. We're angry, militant, while there are "other truths", there should be tolerance, dialogue and so on and so on. They may not identify as relativists, or use that word at all, but they usually have that kind of understanding.

New Atheists then are unfairly attacked for leading everyone into relativism while being attacked by relativists at the same time. Also, relativists are the same people who will appease fundamentalists and Islamic conservatives in general.

It's a triple problem and that's why it must be combated. When the Pope attacks secularism for leading us into relativism, we can't simply deny this. Those of us who aren't relativists will shout straw man!, and while that is true - for most of us - there is still some people who are attracted by it. We can't simply dismiss relativism as a non-problem.

In Sweden, Christer Sturmark of the Humanisterna organisation actually joined forces with an Evangelical called Stefan Swärd. Together they wrote a piece in the Expressen paper against cultural relativism in February, stating among other things that cultural relativism undermines the Human Rights. That's a very good move.

This won't make Atheism seem like a viable option for Evangelicals, but it shows that not all Atheists have the intention of lapsing into Barbary. Constantly criticizing relativists from an Atheist perspective, can show that those fears are not warranted and we can invalidate criticism. Some will continue to claim that without God, there's no point in being moral, but it won't seem to stick as well.

While I believe firmly that we must criticize both the fundamentalists and the moderates (and the liberals) on their respective issues, we must not merely dismiss accusations of relativism. It must be tackled head-on, because right now it is a legitimate complaint when there are other Atheists who keep spreading the idea (along with many religious liberals it must be noted).

There is one more thing I want to add. Conservative and fundamentalist believers are of course making a false dichotomy where you have to chose between their absolutism or relativism. And also defenders of relativism have been using the same logic.
"Since such relativism is intolerable, in their eyes, imperialist universalism must be endorsed. Either we're right and they're wrong, or "right" and "wrong" have no meaning!" Dennett
So make no mistake, there are things in other cultures that are perfectly fine. It's just that the proponents of relativism seem not to separate between FGM and spicy food.

And also, Christian and Muslims all dabble in relativism:
"God's mysterious ways" = "God's culture" in relativist language.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Churches crumble in France

"Some communities have dynamited churches deemed too expensive to maintain. Others have taken a less radical approach, selling them as housing.
In traditionally Roman Catholic France, fewer than 5 percent of the nation's 62 million people attend Mass every week, down from 27 percent a half-century ago, according to a survey of more than 29,000 people published by the Ifop polling agency in 2006."

Star Tribune, April 11, 2008

Most U.S. Christians Back Israel Out of 'Biblical Obligation'

"Though figures released this week by the Joshua Fund differed among Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals, the new figures confirmed that American Christians as a whole believed that a "biblical obligation" exists behind their support for the State of Israel.
According to the survey, evangelical Christians were the most supportive of Israeli causes; nearly 90 percent said they felt a "moral and biblical obligation" to back Israel, and 62 percent said that Israel alone should posses control of Jerusalem.
Evangelical Christians also had the largest number of respondents who said they opposed a Palestinian state, believing it would give rise to terrorism.
Non-evangelical Protestants and Catholics were also revealed to be very pro-Israel, though their support was slightly lower.
Eighty-four percent of Protestants and 76 percent of Catholics said they felt a "biblical obligation" to support Israel, the survey results revealed.
A majority of Protestants also said they agreed that Jerusalem should remain Israel's undisputed capitol, while a lower but still high number of Catholics agreed.
Compared to Evangelicals, a plurality of non-Evangelical Protestants said they were not opposed to an independent Palestine, believing that it would be a moderate state, with half of Catholics agreeing."
Christian Post, Apr. 12 2008
How religion poisons everything #1298
Whatever you think about Israel/Palestine, using the bible to defend your position is utterly ridiculous. The problem would probably have been solved ages ago if there hadn't been so strong religious ties to the place.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Canadian Muslims condemn UN “defamation of religion” decision

"The Muslim Canadian Congress has expressed shock and disappointment at the move by Islamic countries to bulldoze the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) into approving a resolution curtailing freedom of speech under the guise of protecting religion.
The resolution approved at the UNHRC and initiated by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is disingenuously titled "Combating Defamation of Religion." However, the fact is that the OIC resolution is nothing more than a cover to silence opponents of Islamist oppression inside Muslim countries, as well as in the West."

Muslim Canadian Congress, April 7, 2008
This is good news!
Have a look at their charter. They should get more coverage.

Only 38% of Britons believe in God

"To start with, we discover that only 38% of British respondents to a Eurobarometer Survey said they believed in God.
Other figures then give an indication of just how confused the nation is about religion. In reply to the question "Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?" 45.8% said they didn't. The most astonishing figure of all is that those belonging to the CofE/Anglicans have dropped from 29.3% to 22.2% in just a decade. That this has not been national news can only be because it is no surprise and/or people want to keep it quiet. Obviously some of the drop can be attributed to deaths, but not when the drop is so massive. So where have the rest of them migrated to? The figures suggest that it is to "Christian – no denomination" and no religion, both of which showed 3% – 5% increases. It seems plausible that "Christian – no denomination" is a half way house for the cultural Christians who bolstered the 72% figure in the 2001 Census before they join those of "no religion".
With the exception of the Roman Catholics, presumably because of Eastern European immigration, all other Christian denominations are much reduced, as are Buddhists. There are large proportional increases for Hindus and (surprisingly) Jews and above all Muslims (from 1.8% to 3.3%), and in some communities they may well be in the majority.
Incredibly, 13% of men and 15% of women claimed that they attended a religious service once a week or more. Even the churches own figures don't support that."

Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society, 11 April 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Muslim sex offenders may opt out of treatment

"Muslim sex offenders may be allowed to opt out of a prison treatment programme because it is against their religion, it has emerged. The Prison Service's Muslim advisor has said there is a "legitimate Islamic position" that criminals should not discuss their crimes with others. Under the Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP), which treats more than 600 prisoners including rapists and sexual killers each year, offenders must discuss their crime, sometimes in groups.", 09/04/2008
This is fucking ridiculous.
If they're going to serve longer sentences instead, that's one thing, but if the programme works, then that is the most important aspect. They can not wave their stupid religion for everything :
"Article 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Rome, 4.XI.1950"
It's fairly obvious that if they deny to take part in the programme, and end up raping again, then they have use their religion to infringe upon others' rights.

Bible Tops America's 10 Favorite Books of All Time

"The results may come as no surprise considering statistics that reflect how plentiful Bibles are in the nation. An estimated 92 percent of Americans own a Bible and the average household owns three, a 1993 Barna Research study found. More recent research puts Bible ownership at an average of four per household, which suggest that Bible publishers sell twenty-five million copies a year, according to The New Yorker. But the revered book, a testament to God's enduring love toward mankind, is read by just 45 percent of Americans in a typical week, the Barna Research Group reported two years ago.

America's Top 10 Favorite Books
1. The Bible

2. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
3. Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien

4. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
5. The Stand, by Stephen King
6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
8. Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown

9. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
10. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

The Christian Post, Apr. 09 2008 (See also:
The Harris Poll.)
Unfortunately, there was no percentages mentioned regarding each book. It's worth noting that Atlas Shrugged by the militant Atheist Ayn Rand is #9, but I also think it's interesting to see that while a lot of people think highly of the bible, and apparently read in it, they don't learn a lot from reading it. I guess they keep re-reading John 3:16.
I'll combine some surveys in a graph here:

"Only half of American adults can name even one of the four Gospels. Most Americans cannot name the first book of the Bible. Only one-third know that Jesus (no, not Billy Graham) delivered the Sermon on the Mount. A majority of Americans wrongly believe that the Bible says that Jesus was born in Jerusalem. When asked whether the New Testament book of Acts is in the Old Testament, one quarter of Americans say yes. More than a third say that they don’t know. Most Americans don’t know that Jonah is a book in the Bible. Ten percent of Americans believed that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife."

Stephen Prothero, "Religious Literacy" (page 30)
More Americans Familiar with Big Mac Ingredients than 10 Commandments

(Pics by AndrewMark and abcdz2000 at

German Church used Nazi forced labor during WW2

"The German bishops' conference has released an exhaustive study of the use of forced labor by Catholic institutions under the Nazi regime.
Nearly 6,000 people, including conscripted laborers and prisoners of war, were put to work at Church-administered institutions during the Nazi era. Their work is detailed in a study commissioned by the bishops' conference, entitled "Forced Labor and the Catholic Church: 1939- 1945."
Cardinal Karl Lehman of Mainz, the former president of the German bishops' conference, said that the 700-page study is "an important step along the way to constructing future unity." The cardinal said that the use of forced labor is "a burden of history that our Church will keep facing up to in the future."
The study shows that the 5,904 people were put to work at Catholic institutions, on orders from the Nazi labor office. In most cases they worked in hospitals, orphanages, cemeteries or other institutions run by Church, rather than in parishes. In some instances the laborers worked on monastery farms or on cleaning crews.", Apr. 9, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

American Atheists and Agnostics divorce rate below average

"In addition to finding that four out of every five adults (78%) have been married at least once, the Barna study revealed that an even higher proportion of born again Christians (84%) tie the knot. That eclipses the proportion among people aligned with non-Christian faiths (74%) and among atheists and agnostics (65%).

Barna Group, March 31, 2008
Not such a big surprise, but I post it so you can all see that Atheists and Agnostics fare pretty well in their marriages. One could argue that since these infidels are less inclined to marry, they ought to have a higher success rate anyway. On the other hand one could argue that religious people seem to marry for less than good reasons.
I see Asians have a low divorce rate, no thanks to Muslims who (depending on their denomination) can have four wives and marry and divorce for a night. I mean, I wonder what the divorce rate in Iran is where one-night-stands, I mean marriages, are accepted.
"Malaysian man gets divorced twice in one day
It is not unusual for the many wives of a Muslim man to put up with each other for the good of the household, but two Malaysian women got along so well they decided to leave their husband at the same time."

Guardian, April 2 2008
That also reminds me:
"The extravagant side of Mohammed bin Laden's nature made itself evident when it came to women. Islam permits a man four wives at a time, and divorce is a simple matter, at least for a man, who only needs to declare, "I divorce you." Before his death, Mohammed bin Laden officially had fathered fifty-four children from twenty-two wives. The total number of wives he procured is impossible to determine, since he would often "marry" in the afternoon and divorce that night. An assistant followed behind to take care of any children he might have left in his wake. He also had a number of concubines, who stayed in the bin Laden compound if they bore him children. "My father used to say that he had fathered twenty-five sons for the jihad," his seventeenth son, Osama, later remembered."

Lawrence Wright - The Looming Tower (p71)
So there you see, Osama bin Laden shows what will happen when parents divorce!
That doesn't bode well for USA, which is the country with the highest divorce rate (despite being such a God-fearing country).

Lastly, a bit cheesy video with different, and lower divorce rates:

62% Long Island Catholics without religious moral guidance

"As Pope Benedict XVI's visit to New York and Washington, D.C., approaches, a Newsday poll has found that Long Island Catholics view religion and prayer as critical parts of their lives, though they may dissent from church stances on major issues such as allowing priests to marry or the ordination of women.


The survey found Benedict XVI's visit -- his first to the United States since his election to the papacy three years ago -- is sparking excitement, but not as much as Pope John Paul II's visit in 1995, according to a poll conducted then by Newsday. Some 58 percent of respondents were "very interested" or "mildly interested" in the April 15-20 visit, compared with 66 percent for John Paul II's visit.


The poll also found Long Island Catholics still consider "moral guidance" the most meaningful aspect of their faith, though it declined from 48 percent in 1995 to 38 percent. It was followed by the sacraments, which 33 percent said was the most meaningful aspect, up from 27 percent in 1995. Other areas lagged far behind: church teachings on social issues (5 percent), closeness with other parishioners (7 percent) and spiritual example of priest and nuns (5 percent).


Bonner of Molloy College said the relatively high rankings of moral guidance and the sacraments showed that "we must be doing something right." He added, "If people don't get moral guidance from their spiritual leaders where are they going to get it?", April 5, 2008
Having heard countless accusations against Atheists that we have no moral guidance, it is with some amusement I see that 62% of Long Island Catholics do not look for moral guidance in their faith. I guess (most) Long Island Catholics and Atheists aren't that different after all - when it comes to morals.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Anglo-Saxon attitudes

The March 29th issue of The Economist had some interesting charts showing how Britons and Americans differ on several issues:

It's not surprising how many believes in God and Hell and attitudes to Atheist presidents, but I thought it was interesting to see the differences on Creationism and Intelligent Design in USA. That 20 per cent of Americans believe in Intelligent Design while 40 per cent of them believe in "The Bible" is in a sense good news, because it just shows that the problem is a lack of basic education. Intelligent Design is in many ways more insidious, while the bible version is much more primitive. I think good education stand a better chance with Creationism than with Intelligent Design, because ID is stupidity on a much more abstract level disguising itself as science. You also see that in Britain, there's slightly more people who believe in ID than Creationism.

As for values, the only place they seem to concur is about death penalty.

This chart is a bit difficult to read, but I think it's a summary of how they responded in the other charts after party lines. Notice how even English Conservatives are much more liberal with regards to religion and values than American democrats.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A review of the Organisation of Islamic Countries report on Islamophobia

"Islamophobia exists but the OIC report is the wrong way of going about it. A phobia is a strong irrational or powerful fear and dislikes of something, in this case, the religion of Islam.


Looking at the document, I would conclude that this was done by some under-graduates from a 3rd grade university hidden in a country-side somewhere, who have no idea about modern life and have suddenly stumbled upon the internet with their first lesson being Google search. As a result, this document starts off with the best of intentions and ends up rather fanning Islamophobia instead of helping to reduce it. It suffers from the following major defects:

* Total misunderstanding of the basic principle of Freedom of Speech. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to irritate and upset others. Freedom of speech does not include the right to discriminate against others though. For example, I can take the mickey out of suicide bombers wanting virgins and ending up with raisins. Or you can call me an infidel and say your religion is better than mine. These are completely acceptable, I have no issues. But you cannot tell others to kill me nor can I tell others to kill you. That is incitement to violence. The author seems to have deep intellectual issues in understanding this basic matter.
* Confusing racism with Islamophobia. Race belongs to a genetic category generally exhibited on the basis of a physical appearance. Islamophobia is a fear of Islam. Two totally different things. While in certain cases (such as black Muslims), they might blow over into being the same, but to confuse both of them as one shows muddled thinking. Muslims are not a race, and they do include a variety of different races and ethnic groups.
* Methodological and terminological confusion, which emerges from seriously flawed selection of incidents and coverage of incidents. Almost 50% of the incidents noted in the Appendix are not Islamophobic in nature, but belong to the category of freedom of speech or simple crime category. Islamophobia exists already without trying to add to it.
* A totally wrong emphasis on legal protections. They try to go deep into legal aspects of various conventions and institutions. But you see, those are already established, anti-discrimination laws exist, anti-violence laws exist anti-incitement laws exist and they are sufficient. For example, they are talking about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and completely forget that they themselves have repudiated it and have come up with a Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. Here’s an idea! How about the OIC signing up to and transcribing to domestic law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as most of the rest of the world has done?
* Be very careful about complaining about being a victim, because it only stands up when you yourself have not victimised someone else. Now if you look at the OIC minorities, one can come up with many examples of victimisation that they themselves have done. And we are talking about Muslims victimising Muslims here, forget about non-Muslims. Ranging from Shia, Sunni, Ahmadi, Baha’i, Ismaili, Darfurians and then all the way to the other side like Jews, Christians, Hindus Buddhists, etc. have been victimised in OIC countries. Now, consider the reaction if such a report on anti-Baha'i or anti-Shia or anti-Semitic discrimination is presented at the OIC? How about considering the fact that many if not most current anti-Semitic attacks in Europe are carried out by European Muslims?
* A totally imbalanced view of history. This entire report was so imbalanced in terms of its historical coverage that one does not even know where to start. What about the entry of Islam into the Caucasian world? Or the Chinese area? How about how it managed the entry and existence in South Asia and Africa? Islam has perhaps victimised more in many countries and regions than had been victimised against. Perhaps this is why their geographical scope of the report is so muddled (to avoid any facts which destroy their argument?)
* Significant challenges in the identification of the causes of Islamophobia. First of all, there is not one form of Islam; it is not a single view, sect or a monolith. More importantly it is not the role of the state to define it. So if you are an Ahmadi or a Shia or a Sunni or what have you, we simply do not care! If you have religious differences, then by all means, discuss them, but do not kill for those differences. For example, the list of seven points raised by the Runnymede Trust defining Islamophobia can, unfortunately be equally applied to anti-Semitism, Anti-Hinduism, Anti-Shia… in OIC countries, where they will be totally applicable. Consequently, ALL root causes of Islamophobia as identified in section 1.4.1 are completely wrong and misallocated.
* A clear misunderstanding of the role of the media and the level of control people can actually exert over them. Most - if not all - of the OIC have no or very little press freedom. On top of that, the Arab League, a subset of the OIC, has decided to take fuller control over their TV Media since February 2008. That is not how the media works in other countries. Do check out independent organisations such as Reporters without Borders.
* Israel – Palestine conflict. This is something that I can never understand. Curiously, more than 3/4th of all dead Palestinians have been killed by their fellow Arabs compared to the numbers killed by Israelis, but besides that breathtaking hypocrisy, I still cannot understand why they would include it in here. Or exclude say something like Bangladesh and Sudan? Pretty bizarre and intellectually vacuous."

Bhaskar Dasgupta, The Cheers, 3. April 2008
The report(PDF).

Fundamentalists of all stripes want to turn back the clock

"Despite all their theological and cultural differences, fundamentalists of every faith share at least one common characteristic: resistance to modernity. That’s the assessment of scholars and firsthand observers who have evaluated the varieties of religious expression. “Fundamentalism worldwide is religious anti-modernism,” noted Roger Olson, professor of theology at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. “Fundamentalism reacts against various types of modernity,” echoed Bill Leonard, a church historian and dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School. Whether it’s Baptist preachers J. Frank Norris and Jerry Falwell calling America to return to pre-scientific Christianity or Ayatollah Khomeini and Muqtada al-Sadr calling Muslims to resist the intrusion of Western decadence, fundamentalism finds a home in most major faith groups."

Associated Baptist Press, April 1, 2008
It's a long article crammed with points. Apart from being against modernity there were four other subjects discussed: Dogmatic Faith, Identity, Fear and Politics.
It's the first in a series on Fundamentalism at Associated Baptist Press.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Conservative Protestants' Religious Beliefs Contribute to Their Low Wealth, Duke Study Shows

"Duke Sociology Professor Lisa A. Keister examines how religion affects the wealth of believers [...]
The study examines why conservative Protestants are dramatically overrepresented at the bottom of the U.S. wealth distribution and concludes that the cultural understandings that accompany conservative Protestant beliefs influence wealth ownership directly and indirectly.


Religious beliefs affect conservative Protestants’ wealth in a number of ways. They influence wealth ownership directly by shaping the values that people use to make work and financial decisions. In particular, Biblical references to God’s exclusive ownership of worldly goods lead to practices which are likely to reduce saving and asset accumulation.
Using the Economic Values Survey and the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, the study found that conservative Protestants tend to hold the following beliefs:
-- Divine advice, advice from clergy and other religious advice about money and work have merit. More conservative Protestants than other people surveyed are likely to pray about financial decisions, for example.
-- Excess accumulation of wealth is undesirable. More conservative Protestants said money prevents one from knowing God than other people surveyed.
Religious belief also can influence net worth indirectly through behavior that impedes the accumulation of wealth. This behavior includes:
-- Low educational attainment. Education is one of the strongest predictors of wealth, and conservative Protestants have significantly less education than members of other faiths.
-- Conservative Protestants tend to have children relatively early and to have large families, both of which make saving difficult. Also, conservative Protestant women tend not to work outside the family, which also reduces the ability to save. Saving and the resulting growth of assets “are perhaps the single biggest predictors of total adult wealth,” the study says.


Keister notes that the results could be influenced by the conservative Protestants’ socioeconomic class, but she found that religion had a significant effect after controlling for class background, adult class and other indicators such as parents’ education and income.
Nor does race appear to be responsible for the effect of conservative Protestantism on wealth. She found that the effect was stronger among black conservative Protestants, but was significant among whites as well."

Dukenews, March 24, 2008
See also the report: “Conservative Protestants and Wealth: How Religion Perpetuates Asset Poverty”

This is very interesting, and I have to say, sad. It just goes to show how religion contributes to their poverty, thereby dragging them further down into ignorance. I'm not one to say that getting rich is the only good thing in the world, but being poor is hardly desirable either. Especially not when you live in a country where ending up in a hospital can be very expensive.
The Conservative Protestant fear of wealth is also an interesting reminder of the old ties between Christianity and Communism.

Also, that Blacks are poorer can therefore in part be explained by their widespread religiosity. As Norm Allen said in a Point of Inquiry Podcast, in the old days, the Church was the only free space they had. Here's two podcasts with him that I highly recommend March 14. 2008 and November 24. 2006.

The things that offend armchair critics

"Fellow bloggers,

The writer at the Armchair Critic blog says that I should be shot for compiling the list of things that offend Muslims, and goes on to compare me to a terrorist.

Here's the Link.

Here's a short sample,
This guy is a real muppet. I couldn't care to dig up his background or where he came from for that matter. Anyone who stirs shit like that deserved to be shot really. This is simply a case of asking for it. Don't even mention terrorists, this chap could be in real trouble even if he bumped into his Muslim neighbour, if he has any.

Please spread the word about this guy.

Kevin, The Amboy Times"
I see that the Armchair Critic has rewritten that post now, and there appears to have been quite a discussion which I haven't followed. But the right honourable Armchair Critic need to realize that merely compiling a list is not the same as contributing to its contents. I'm not one to ask for people to be shot, but if the Armchair Critic wants to point his gun, I mean finger, somewhere, how about pointing it in the right direction? Say, I contributed to that list with the story about this employee at Marks & Spencer who refused to sell the book First Bible Stories to an old grandmother. The real shit stirrer here is not me, Kevin or the Christian grandmother - it's the holier than thou employee. Episodes like this that have made me rethink freedom of religion because I realize that shit stirrers like this will use their religion for anything, so it needs clear limits.

It has to be said though, that there should perhaps have been made a list of "The things that do not offend Muslims", because while there's always a very large majority of Muslims who say nothing, thereby not making a difference(that's the real problem), there will often be a few individuals that champion common sense when faced with silly demands from fundamentalists.
Maybe they should get their own list?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Intolerant Tolerance

The headline refers to a particular Norwegian debate, but it is fairly relevant to the Atheist movement. I wrote a blog post about in Norwegian, but here's one for the international market!
A common criticism levelled at conservative Christians have been that they are intolerant, especially towards gays. This type of criticism generally comes from liberals, and it's not concerned with scripture. It doesn't really care about religion at all, just tolerance.
In 2004, a Norwegian political commentator and editor, Harald Stanghelle, then warned that this tolerance (that the liberals advocated) was getting increasingly intolerant towards believers, and writing a piece about this, he used the phrase "the intolerant tolerance". The case in question was about how politicians wanted to force a Norwegian missionary organisation called Misjonsforbundet to allow gays and unwed couples into their organisation. Stanghelle is by no means a religious conservative, so it was not a right-wing backlash or anything. He was merely preaching tolerance towards the intolerant.
Late in February, this year, a whole shit storm was kicked up because Aftenposten, the paper that Stanghelle works for(and where he's the political editor), awarded a local Islamist, Mohammed Usman Rana, 10 000 NOK for an op-ed called "The secular extremism" where he criticized that Norwegians are intolerant towards religion. (Rana had earlier said this "I disapprove of the death penalty for homosexuality, but I am not a theologian or an Islam scholar and so I will not answer to what they do in other countries.",(English) so you know the type.). And in a comment a few days after Rana's op-ed was published, and all Hell broke loose, Stanghelle wrote a piece to defend the decision. It was called "Triumph of the godless?" and again he wrote about "the intolerant tolerance",– three times.
Stanghelle is, however, missing the point. Not everyone who puts on their shiny armour is out to fight for tolerance, but justice –- for instance. For what is right, not for what is tolerant. I don't think it was tolerance that was on the minds of those politicians who wanted also religious organisations to abide by Norwegian law, I think it was a sense of justice, and a feeling that they were fighting for the rights of a minority.
Justice can mean that you instead of handing out tolerance in all directions, be it towards Nazis or EMOs, you actively support the group that is most deserving.
Justice is not a simple concept. Those who believe they know what is right and wrong can be seriously mistaken, and will occasionally walk straight into fanaticism. The road to Hell is truly paved with good intentions. However, tolerance is also a good intention. It is in fact quite rare to hear people not advocating something with some or another good intention.
The difference between the two types of arguments(justice vs. tolerance), is that the ones who are concerned with justice, and what is right and wrong make an ethical judgement, while the tolerant doesn't have to. This is not to say that tolerant people do not think ethically, but an argument based on tolerance alone does not need to be founded on any other foundation than "Who cares?"
When I tolerate something, it's because I don't care. I tolerate bad music and art, and I tolerate traffic up to a certain point but if I say that I tolerate violent crime and exploitation, then my tolerance looses its charm. Then it's merely laissez faire.
In Stanghelle's comment from 2004, he wrote about Misjonsforbundet denying openly gays and unwed couples to get membership. He wrote that their opinion is hardly original, that it's shared by religious organisations throughout the world. But that "it doesn't fit the Norwegian zeitgeist in 2004".
He may think that his argumentum ad populum works to his advance, but it's quite to the contrary. Yes, Misjonsforbundet does not represent a minority. Strong forces in Russia, USA, the Middle East, Africa and probably lots of other places, are pressuring to force the homos back into the closet once and for all. It means that Misjonsforbundet is merely a part of a larger international tendency, and we have an obligation to do our job here.
So then the question is: do we want justice or tolerance? If we choose tolerance, we will have to expect to be criticized for not being tolerant enough to those we disagree with. It's a sort of Catch 22. You may perfectly well be tolerant if you like, but once you work against intolerance, you're not any better yourself. In the 90s, in Norway, anti-racists made the error that they used "tolerance" as a slogan, even if they were not particularly tolerant when they met a racist on the street. Instead of saying that they somehow promoted tolerance, which they weren't, they should have said that they were against racism because its unfair. That would do it. I'm against racism. It's not because I'm tolerant. I'm against it because it's unscientific, it's unfair, and it's bad for society. I don't need to resort to "tolerance".
And when I defend gays against religion, it's not because I'm tolerant towards the gays, but because I think it's the only right thing to do and the antipathy against gays is hardly scientific. I don't do it unconditionally. I know my bible, and I know that it does not favour homosexuality. And if there are good scientific arguments against, say adoption for gays, I would be listening (so far there's only been religious ad hoc-noise). The point is: gays have the best case. Not necessarily to become members of a religious organisation, but by being a minority that religious people throughout the world are violently picking on.
I only have to chose between defending people who are the way they are because of biology and between defending people who are as bigoted as they are because of theology. I rank biology over religious bigotry any day.
Intolerant tolerance becomes a problem to Stanghelle as well, because he's tolerant to Islamists and he prefer that we are too. So it's another Catch 22: he is intolerant to our intolerance towards their intolerance. Might it not have been be better if he had merely said he was for or against gays in Misjonsforbundet, or if he was for or against what Mohammed Usman Rana wrote?
The problem with tolerance as an ideal is that it does not inform us, because all roads are just as valid. But if one point of view is reasonable and the other is hair-raising, it doesn't mean that a compromise between the two is the best option.
It is also far more interesting to hear religious criticism against Atheism than smartass "Everything is all right stop this arguing right now" from other Atheists or liberal religious people.
One argument is an argument you can answer, and maybe even agree upon. The other one is authoritarian, merely inviting you to shut up.
I'm by no means against tolerance. A liberal society is after all the best kind of society, and intolerance is a negative thing to me too. But tolerance and intolerance are simply very vague terms that don't mean anything. I mean, Stanghelle would never have said that it was unfair that Misjonforbundet could not bar gay and unwed couples from becoming members. It's not unfair at all, that they have to abide by Norwegian law. He just picked the buzz word of all modern democracies, tolerance, and pretended it meant anything at all, but even a liberal society has to be protected by the law.

Tolerance can also be self-exterminating when you're up against forces that are generally more intolerant than average, like Islamists. Tolerance can therefore not be absolute. You can be against violence, even if you retain your right to self defence.

"We have the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should tolerate even them whenever we can do so without running a great risk; but the risk may become so great that we cannot allow ourselves the luxury. Karl Popper, paraphrase by Richard Robinson, An Atheist's Values (page 215)
In Norway, there's a Neo-Nazi/Neo-Pagan group called Vigrid. I tolerate them. It's because there are not one or two billions of these morons in the world. But if Vigrid is awarded 10 000NOK for writing their opinions in Aftenposten, then I will have to protest.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Arabs campaign for women to "Take off the Veil"

"A group of Arabic websites and blogs have launched an international campaign against the Muslim headscarf (hijab), arguing the move is a response to what they see as “intellectual terrorism” practiced by strict Islamic groups and individuals.
The campaign is called "Take Off The Veil”, and was launched March 8, 2008 to coincide with International Women's Day.


Manea, a professor of Yemeni descent and who works in Switzerland, said she believes the headscarf was never part of Islam and chose International Women's Day for the campaign as she views the headscarf as a symbol of women's oppression and to warn women deceived by Islamists into putting "this rag on their heads."

Al Arabiya, 10 March 2008
Not bad at all!

Gorbachev Dispels 'Closet Christian' Rumors; Says He is Atheist

"Gorbachev, the last communist leader of the Soviet Union, confronted speculations that he had been a closeted Christian during an interview with the Russian news agency Interfax. "Over the last few days some media have been disseminating fantasies – I can't use any other word – about my secret Catholicism, citing my visit to the Sacro Convento friary, where the remains of St. Francis of Assisi lie," Gorbachev said, according to an Interfax article posted Friday. "To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist,” he stated."

Christian Post/Interfax, Mar. 24 2008
Good for Gorbie!

Don't worry, plenty of other Communists were Christians.
Christian proletars of the world, unite with this shirt today!

Monday, March 24, 2008

EU concerned by growing use of religious defamation laws worldwide

"The European Union wants to stop the growing worldwide trend of using religious defamation laws to limit free speech. EU diplomats in Geneva are asking United Nations human rights experts Wednesday to suggest ways to protect freedom of expression better in the face increasing legal threats. Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency, says journalists around the world face harsh penalties ranging from indirect censorship to heavy fines. Germany says it is particularly worried about a recently signed Arab charter that limits broadcasters' rights. Islamic countries are pushing for stricter international laws against religious defamation in the wake of Muslim anger over cartoons of their prophet Muhammad."

International Herald Tribune, March 12, 2008

Christian think tank doesn’t know the difference between atheism and secularism

"A new survey by the Christian “think tank” Theos shows that there are more people in Britain who describe themselves as atheists and doubters than there are self-described Christians. Theos manages to interpret this as a failure of secularism.
Theos describes itself as a “public theology think tank”. Well, it had better get its thinking cap on and reconsider the honesty of its approach.
The poll, conducted for Theos by ComRes, questioned 1100 people about what they believed, and although it was presented by Theos as proof of Britain’s continued “spirituality”, it was actually very bad news for the churches.
When asked “How would you describe your beliefs?” A total of 48% of respondents said either “I am a doubter” or “I am an atheist”. Only 38% said they were “a Christian who doesn’t go to Church regularly” and 8% said they were Christians who “regularly attends church”. This rather dramatically contradicts the finding of the 2001 census, which showed 72% of people describing themselves as Christians.
When asked about their opinions on Jesus, a total of 41% of the ComRes respondents said they thought he never existed or they didn’t know whether he existed or not. Only 40% definitely thought he was “the son of God”. 26% thought that the Easter story had no real meaning today. Only 31% disagreed with the statement that “death marks the end of human existence”. Only 9% believed in “physical resurrection”.
These results were launched by Theos with the claim: “The new Theos Easter research makes uncomfortable reading for those who would claim Britain is, in any meaningful sense, secular.”

National Secular Society, 20 March 2008
Read the poll results in full
Read the Theos analysis of the results