Friday, April 29, 2016

Atheistophobia: It’s time to talk about the most persecuted minority in the world

While apologists create mendacious claims of the “New Atheist” threat that is persecuting Muslims – very little attention is given to how atheists have been a persecuted minority for centuries

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When I wrote ‘Death to Infidels’ – I had two questions.
“How many more Avijit Roys, Washiqur Rahmans and Ananta Bijoy Das are required before the world accepts the issues with Islam? How much more should the body of proof weigh before society admits Islam is in need of reform in the most desperate way?”
The questions were based on the probability of the answer. So I wasn’t shocked to hear about the murder of Niloy Neel – although I was deeply saddened and I continue to remain in a place where I have no doubt these bloggers are targeted for their critique of Islam. The Guardian also published details regarding the release of a global Islamist hitlist that vows violence on prominent Islam critics, atheists, secularists, non-Muslims and liberal Muslims. Remember, this is all emerging from Bangladesh – the same Bangladesh Reza Aslan had deceitful described as secular, 100% equal nation to suit his own dishonest narrative – but then again, I don’t expect much integrity from a privileged man living in the comforts of Western secularism while vilifying atheists, secularists and Islam-critics just to protect a cherry picked interpretation of Islamic scripture. As I had previously exposed – Reza Aslan is an apologist for Islamism – because he holds firm in the claim that Islamism is the antidote to Jihadism. While apologists create mendacious claims of the “New Atheist” threat that is persecuting Muslims – very little attention is given to how atheists have been a persecuted minority for centuries. Both in historical and present-day context – atheists and secularists are scorned and dehumanised by society worldwide. According to a 2012 report by Gallup, it was found that 58% of Americans will vote for a Muslim presidential candidate over an atheist candidate who received only 54% support. Although very close in number – the vast majority of Americans are more favourable towards Muslims than atheists. If a society has more trust towards a Muslim than an atheist to lead their country – it is safe to argue that Muslims are less persecuted than atheists. And could this discrimination towards atheists be a result of the dominant religions within the U.S.A. that vilify atheists in general? Even prominent American figures like Oprah Winfrey are confused how an atheist can function as a compassionate human being without a belief in God in comparison to a Christian like herself who respects the savagery of a genocidal Biblical God who has no qualms about murdering newborns and punishing rapists with a payment of 50 shekels. How astonishing is a theist’s moral hypocrisy? Maybe if theists actually read the scriptures of their faith, they can understand why atheists are intolerant of mainstream religions. But I doubt many would ever acknowledge the barbarism incited within their religious books – because that would mean having to admit how hateful and vicious their God is and deriving “morals” from him is galactic bigotry in comparison to an atheist who derives morals from the simple fact that everyone deserve human rights because it is fundamental to their survival as human beings. What’s frightening about being an atheist in context to Islamism is the sheer volume of scripture that go a step further in disparaging atheists – it has numerous quotes that literally incite violence against them – and thus implying atheists are the most evil creatures in the kingdom of Allah that must be punished at all time. This is a well-respected sentiment held by a vast majority of Muslims – and it can be easily substantiated by all Islamic nations that have criminalised atheism and apostasy – where the resulting punishment is death.
The persecution of atheists doesn’t end with Islamic nations – it’s a global trend that testifies to how atheists are the most persecuted minority on Earth. Blasphemy laws also prevent atheists from expressing their atheism and challenging ideas that systematically abuse them. By logic, blasphemy is anything that questions theocracy – and as a result – even merely addressing how religion abuses atheists can be defined as a blasphemous act, leaving a person criminally charged, prosecuted and sentenced to death or imprisonment. This means an atheist is denied even the legal right to protect themselves from the tyranny of theists. To record – there has been no confirmed cases where atheists have persecuted theists in the name of a disbelief in a personal god (atheism). People like Cenk Uyger and Reza Aslan have made a career out of equating the criticism and intolerance for Islam to “attacking” 1.6 billion Muslims and portraying them as a singular group of worshippers. Uyger and Aslan claim the entirety of the Ummah are persecuted by atheists – while conveniently forgetting how much the Ummah propagate hatred and violence towards vocal atheists worldwide which is precisely the cause of so many attacks on Bangladeshi atheist/secular bloggers’ and the impending violence vowed upon more atheists and secularists around the globe. Terrorists such as the Islamic State consist of a multi-national identity and their only common ground is Islam and their Muslim identity. But according to Uyger and Aslan – these are people who are persecuted by atheists. It wasn’t enough for these men to romanticise the abuse Muslims perpetuate on atheists, non-Muslims and liberal Muslims – they had to maximise the slur against them. Prominent vocal atheists such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, et al are now being described as “New Atheists” – a pejorative that attacks their character for being unapologetically intolerant towards religious bigotry – but more specifically – Islamic bigotry. “New Atheism” isn’t reserved only for famous atheists but also vocal atheists in general – which explains why people as Eiynah (Nicemangoes), Ali A. Rizvi, Taslima Nasreen, Sarah Haider, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, and even I, Aki Muthali, etc., are called everything from “New Atheist” to “native informant” and “white supremacist”.  Apparently, we brown people are not entitled to a decent standard of human rights, therefore by exposing the religious and cultural abuse of our native lands, we are committing treachery against our own. Another implication is that brown people cannot behave rationally, therefore we must be pacified with white-guilt and tolerance for the racism, sexism and misogyny we commit in the name of religion and tradition. Recently, a so-called “journalist” by the name of Murtaza Hussain who works for The Intercept, the online publication co-founded by Glenn Greenwald and company, publicly shamed Maajid Nawaz, a prominent Muslim figure in the U.K. for criticising Islamism and then went on to racially attack Nawaz as a “porch monkey”. Hussain’s anti-black sentiments was really telling but devout Muslims and pseudo liberals all defended Hussain’s racism and nodded their heads in agreement. Ironically, Nawaz is also labeled a “New Atheist” for his work with Sam Harris. Nawaz then addressed the issue with a brilliant report via The Daily Beast, titled “Don’t Call Me ‘Porch Monkey’”. This is only one example pertaining to how people react to the criticism of religious abuse. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from and what your belief is – as long as you dare to criticise the tyranny of religion, you are immediately apostatised by theists – and especially, Islamists and their pseudo liberal allies. But for the lads at The Intercept, it’s not enough to just racially belittle people – they went further by doxxing me for criticising Islam then doubled down and justified their behaviour. The second doxxer, repeated the abuse by using one of his three confirmed sockpuppet accounts which exclusively retweets and favourites his posts on Twitter. Ultimately, I concluded The Intercept as a mediocre publication that has no qualms using racism and threats to silence vocal atheists and secularists. If men with room temperature IQ who resort to doxxing and racial slurs are the brains behind The Intercept – it’s easier to sum up the quality of the reports it releases. Atheist bloggers who are critical of Islam are being threatened universally and yet, a publication that prides itself in being transparent and pro-whistleblowers continue to employ racists and those who insinuate threats by exposing personal information of atheist bloggers. How could “journalists” make a conscious decision to publicise real names of bloggers who are obviously using pseudonyms? If they believed their implied threat through such exposure will confine or limit me in any way – they clearly displayed their intellectual degeneracy that is no different from the psychopathy of corporate/Wallstreet brass. My passion for human rights will not be crippled by Islamist-fanboys and fangirls – so be prepared – because free speech is coming to town.
And speaking of ‘free speech’ – atheists and secularists are also systematically denied the right to speak in educational institutions because of theistic rage over criticism of religion. Recently, Maryam Namazie, an ex-Muslim feminist and secularist, was blocked from speaking at Warwick University because the university feared Namazie’s anti-Islamism stance would offend Muslims. Namazie has proactively rejected Islamism and denounced Islamic misogyny. Yet her lecture was considered dangerous because Muslims would have hurt feelings over their privilege and abuse being intellectually challenged. How many other atheists and ex-Muslims have faced this same scheme of discrimination? This is neither the first time nor the last. Sadly, for universities that succumb to fascism – it seems they are maintained by juvenile bigots with no respect for the foundation of Education. Islamists’ and pseudo liberals’ attack on free speech is just another form of theistic hypocrisy. All the vile scriptures of religion remain a juggernaut of a problem that cannot be reformed by logic – which explains the century upon century of debating human rights. And while the debate remains in gridlock – it is women, girls, LGBTQ, atheists and secularists who pay with their life and dignity – that is what God is built on. And that is the God theists worship. If you want to limit free-speech – then come prepared to have religious scriptures banned as hate-speech too – if not, quit meddling with atheists’ right to express their ideas and beliefs.   While the world exclusively scrutinises Western secular nations for slavery, racism, imperialism and colonialism – they turn an intentional blind eye on the same abuses sanctioned under theocratic nations, mainly in the Middle East. Slavery is still alive there. Where is the outrage? The kafala-system once had a different meaning. Today it is bound by a more sinister definition – it is used in the 21st century to enforce the Islamic “tradition” of slavery where mainly Africans and south and east Asian migrants are lured in with a decent job only to be beaten and raped while doing forced domestic labour and eventually murdered – and if they can’t escape, they commit suicide or die trying to escape. This isn’t “modern slavery” or “domestic slavery” – it is the same slavery the Westerners have long disposed of. I hear no #IStandWithMigrantWorkers trending for the plight of these people being systematically used as slaves by rich Arab Muslims of the East – yet the bleating of how much evil Western secular nations are is a ceaseless banner of pseudo-liberalism being utilised to deflect and deter any conversation regarding this Arab slave crisis – because as you know, as well as I – any form of concerns raised is shut down by the shrieking of “Islamophobia”, followed by “Western foreign policy” and “colonial feminism”. Slavery is rampant in the Middle East – so I ask again – where is your outrage?
The pseudo liberals demand tolerance for theocratic sentiments while it is the embodiment of rape-culture, misogyny and phobias – providing the perfect platform for violent opportunism, especially when it comes to enforcing gender-apartheid, sexual dominance, racism and anti-atheism. In mainstream religion, the only concept of “consent” for women and girls is the predetermined vows of marriage – and even that is given by force through cultural submission that breaks their spirit to preserve the twisted sense of patriarchal “honour” which ironically dwells inside female sexuality. The same scriptures that make males violent religious fanatics, also indoctrinates females to submit to the misogyny and sexism that dehumanise them.
The only thing religion has materialised is the abuse on those it discriminates. Everything else it claims to be or do is yet to be confirmed as fact. No evidence has surfaced to validate religion. However, evidence has arrived to denounce it a hundred times over and lampooned until kingdom comes.  
Intellectual dishonesty becomes mechanical to theists as a result of cognitive dissonance. They expect empty flattery for their religion. It’s even more shocking to theists when they are told fundamental human rights of individuals is not at their disposal to redefine in accordance to their “religious liberty”. Surely – the Satan is amongst us now!
It is the systemic contempt that continuously establishes systematic structures of abuse and if you're unwilling to eliminate systemic contempt cultivated by Islam or any other religions – you're part of the problem.
The monstrosity of religion wants to dictate and mold human rights and create slaves to wash its feet under the guise of liberalism – which is why pretending to be shocked by vocal atheism will not be appreciated in 2015. Oh, that Atheistophobia is truly damaging religion’s divine reputation – and not a single hyperbolic tirade, false equivalency and evasive answers will save it from the wrath of every person it dehumanises.
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Aki Muthali is a freelance writer, who's a feminist. Born and raised in Sri Lanka, she currently lives in Canada. She’s also an illustrator and a painter. Follow her on Twitter 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Glenn Beck Warns That 10,000 Pastors Are Willing To Die Opposing Marriage Equality

By Manny Schewitz | 5 June 2015

Forward Progressives

Glenn Beck. Image: (Churchandstate)
To hear them tell it, you’d think that folks likes Glenn Beck or Mike Huckabee or others who cry wolf on a daily basis are going to be rounded up and tossed into prison any moment now. With the impending Supreme Court decision that is expected to make marriage equality the law of the land across the United States, they’ve been screaming into any microphone that they can access that Christians are going to be persecuted and turned into criminals for discriminating against the LGBT community. Just the other day, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sounded the alarm and claimed that Christians would become criminals.
Now, Glenn Beck and his fringe religious friends are sounding their own alarm and proclaiming that there are at least 10,000 members of their “Black Robe Regiment” who are willing to die resisting the fictitious persecution of Christians in America that they’ve been predicting for years.
Via Right Wing Watch:
“The number in the Black Robe Regiment is about 70,000 now,” Beck said. “The number that I think will walk through a wall of fire, you know, and possible death, is anywhere between 17,000 and 10,000. That is an extraordinary number of people that are willing to lay it all down on the table and willing to go to jail or go to death because they serve God and not man.”
Garlow was in complete agreement, saying that the necessity of being willing to die is “honestly where we are.”
“We’ve come to that moment,” he said. “People like you and me and, thank God, many others are digging in very deeply and laying the benchmark of where we’re going to stand on these issues.”
“You’re going to see these 10,000 to 20,000 pastors begin to stand up,” Beck promised, “and say ‘it doesn’t matter if I lose my church, it doesn’t matter if I lose my building, it doesn’t matter if I lose my life, I will not sit down!’” (Source)
Martyrdom and sacrificing yourself for your religion? Where have we heard that before? Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like radical jihadists, the same people who right-wing alarmists want us to declare war on, even though they share a lot in common?
If you were wondering who the Black Robe Regiment is, it’s an organization of right-wing clerics created by David Barton and Glenn Beck back in 2010. Here’s David Barton himself explaining it on Glenn Beck’s show in April 2010, before Fox News decided Beck was too radical even for them:
“The Black Brigade or Black Regiment were the preachers, because they wore black robes. Black preachers, white preachers — they all wore black probes. And the British specifically blamed the preachers for the American Revolution. That’s where the title “Black Regiment” came from. One of the British officials talked about that.
It’s interesting that the British so hated what the preachers — they claim if it hadn’t been for the preachers, America would still be a happy British colony. So they blamed it on the preachers.
When they come to America, they start to decimating churches. They went to New York City. Nineteen churches — they burned 10 to the ground. They went across Virginia burning churches. They went across New Jersey burning churches. Because they blamed these preachers.” (Source)
The truth is that Glenn Beck and others of his ilk aren’t going to do a damn thing once marriage equality is the law of the land, other than beat their chests and find something else to get their followers riled up about.
What is alarming is the fact that there are many unhinged individuals out there who aren’t aware that people like Glenn Beck or Alex Jones are little more than clever scam artists selling fear to anyone who can’t see through their act. Some of these people will see the Supreme Court’s expected decision as the beginning of the persecution Glenn Beck and David Barton have been predicting, and it is very possible that they will take it upon themselves to commit acts of domestic terrorism.
Unfortunately, there’s little that can be done because the First Amendment protectsfree speech, even when it is hateful and irresponsible. Unless Glenn Beck were to call for armed rebellion against the government – which he won’t do because he’s not stupid enough to lose his show – he can continue to flirt with that fine line between inciting violence and free speech, while laughing all the way to the bank.

Watch the video from Right Wing Watch below:


Arizona Pastor Preaches That Women Should Be Banned From Voting And Confined To Their Homes

Arizona pastor Steven Anderson. Image: (Churchandstate)
Clearly, one big goal of the conservative Christian base is to one day strip women of their right to vote and confine them solely to the home.
And that’s exactly what Arizona pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church preached to his congregation in a video he uploaded to YouTube.
In this latest rant, Anderson goes full misogynist, whining about women being able to divorce their husbands, having the right to vote, and having a job outside of the home, all of which he believes only men should have the ability to do.
“You know what they mean [by women’s rights]?” Anderon asked his flock.
“The right to divorce your husband is what they mean. You know what they mean? The right to rebel and disobey your husband, the right to divorce him, the right to go out and get a job and make your own money, the right to tell him what to do, the right to go vote for our leaders as if women should have any say in how our country is run when the Bible says that “I suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence”?
But it’s old-fashioned…”

What did Einstein say about God, science and religion?

In a midweek review article in The Island (April 20) Dr. V. J. M. de Silva attributes the quote “Science without religion is blind; religion without science is lame” to Einstein. Einstein quotes like “God does not play Dice with the Universe”, or “The scientists’ religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection” are well known.

Hence it is not surprising that many people have hastened to conclude that Einstein “believed in religion”. VJM de S has also used the quote to suggest that Einstein was a believer in God. However, Einstein cannot be pinned down to such a simplistic formula. In regard to Judaism, he wrote: “For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them”.

Another Einstein quote is: “The word god for me is nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this”. So the “God” that Einstein talks of, when he says that “God does not play dice with the Universe” cannot be the “god”of the religious books. In fact Einstein explains that “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings”.

He clarifies further: “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this, but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it”.

Einstein discusses the nature of a future “cosmic religion”

“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. The religion which is based on experience, which refuses the dogmatic. If there’s any religion that would cope the scientific needs it will be Buddhism….

If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.

Immortality? There are two kinds. The first lives in the imagination of the people, and is thus an illusion. There is a relative immortality which may conserve the memory of an individual for some generations. But there is only one true immortality, on a cosmic scale, and that is the immortality of the cosmos itself. There is no other”.

Dr.V.J. M. de Silva quotes C. S Lewis who says: “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a law giver”. The”founding fathers” of the various branches of science (17-19th centuries), were believers in God – Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin, Boyle, Dalton, Linnaeus, Mendel, Pasteur, Cuvier,Copernicus, Kepler, Pascal, Leibnitz and several others”. But this “lawgiver” could not have been the Creator God of Hinduism or Judeo-Christian religion, because that God is a capricious law unto himself, sending plagues and earthquakes on sinners, and listening to prayers of individuals, and even creating Hitler,Stalin, Pol Pot and others. The tradition of looking for “law and order” in nature was borrowed into Judeo-Christian theology from Plato and Aristotle. Some historians have even suggested that the Greek epoch of free inquiry (during the time of Pericles) may have been stimulated by the preceding epoch of free inquiry that existed in North India during the time of the Buddha.

The Greeks believed in a world of Platonic forms based on geometric harmony, based on  ideal spheres and cyclic processes. A modern reader of Isaac Newton’s works will find that the laws of mechanics and physics are presented as geometric proofs. An orderly universe following such geometric harmony was an alien concept to a God-fearing medieval world where miracles, casting out devils, curing lepers by divine intervention, burning witches etc., were part of the world order.

Thus the scientific method of inquiry, which initially assumed a world is governed by harmonically acting platonic forms is a legacy of the Hellenic tradition, and NOT a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition.The “law giver” in theistic traditions was a dictator as temperamental as a Roman emperor.  So, when C. S. Lewis says that ” Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin,Boyle, Dalton, Linnaeus, Mendel, Pasteur, Cuvier, Copernicus, Kepler, Pascal, Leibnitz and several others” believed in “God”, he is equivocating on what “God” may have signified to them. Tycho Brahe observed a supernova star and concluded that the heavens are not immutable – a heresy. Cuvier who discovered the extinction of “God created” species feared that his views were heretical. Newton spent a lot of time applying mathematics to theology. However, unsatisfied with the outcomes, Newton kept his theology to himself. Newton was a revolutionary in science, but he was a pillar of social orthodoxy in a society intolerant of heretics. I have discussed some of these issues in my book “A Physicist’s view of Matter and Mind published by World-Scientific (2013)”.

All the names that Dr. VJM de Silva has quoted (via C. S. Lewis) were nonconformists born to a Christian world. They had to fight against Judeo-Christian  belief system to make progress. Even today, many of our scientist friends “go to church” for “social reasons’, or to listen to “organ and choral music”. An informal poll conducted at an annual meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) is said to have revealed more than 96% of the physicists as atheists or agnostics. The 4% believers, is higher than in an earlier poll, and partly due to the increased Muslim membership in the APS. Non-believers with a Muslim background rarely express their lack of belief. Such restraint existed in Christian societies of an earlier age.

VJM de Silva mentions Dr. Polkinghorne, the Cambridge physicist who became an Anglican priest. I was a Ph. D student working on a topic in quantum mechanics, and  remember attending some of his lectures on dispersion relations and elementary particles by Polkinghorne. Here was a man very rational in one sphere, who became a complete mystic and ordained as a priest in 1979. This may have alleviated some deep emotional anguish that he had. It also rocketed him up in the social order. Anglican Christianity, faced with rapidly diminishing adherents regarded Dr. Polkinghorn as a veritable “god-send”. The very Reverend Dr. Polkinghorn was knighted in 1997 and won the Templeton prize which stood at 1.5 million dollars. It is awarded to those who write to “reconcile Science with God”. Most religious systems have Heaven and Hell as part and parcel of their ethical formula, and Polkinghorne’s total acceptance of Anglican theology, complete with original sin, hell and heaven is certainly not a rational act. We can say with Einstein that “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death”.

Dr. VJM de Silva refers refers to the “big bang” and seems to imply that it gives some meaning to the act of creation. The Vatican theologians were opposed to relativity because it demoted “time” to be  something dependent on a persons state of motion. When the big bang picture came, they  jumped on board claiming that finally cosmology has “justified”  the idea of creation.  Before the bigbang, there was a period of “inflation” that may have involved “dark matter” whose nature is unknown. There are many such “big bangs” (or “white holes that blow out”) going on all the time in various places in the multiverse, just as there are many black holes which suck up matter (energy).  Such inconvenient facts are ignored by the creationists.  Furthermore, modern cosmology has other pictures in terms of collisions of  “branes” ( a type of hyper-surface) within alternative cosmological models, and these are rarely discussed by those who are emotionally attached to a single act of creation. These alternative pictures arise within string theory in attempts to account for “dark matter”, and “dark energy”,  whose nature is not understood at all. Furthermore, normal matter that we understand is only a small fraction of the totality that is yet to be fathomed. We have a very long way to go.

Chandre Dharmawardana

Ottawa, Canada.

Image: (Doseoffunny)

Here’s What Being Good Without God Actually Means

In recent years, researchers have begun to study the moral practices of a relatively new and growing group within America’s religious landscape — the “nones.”
Nones are people who, when asked to describe their religious affiliation, respondthat they are atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” As of 2014, the nones, also known as the “unaffiliated,” are the second largest religious grouping in America, coming in just under evangelical Christians. As a whole, the unaffiliated tend to be less religious by the standards that surveyors have traditionally used to measure religiosity — attendance at worship services, for example, or daily prayer. 
But if they’re not religious by these standards, how exactly are the nones approaching the question of what it means to be a moral person? 
Thanks to the Pew Research Center, we now have some data on this. In a recentreport on religion in everyday life, the organization asked unaffiliated people whether 16 pre-selected beliefs and behaviors were essential, important but not essential, or not important to what they think it means to be a “moral person.” 
For the unaffiliated, honesty tops the list, with about 58 percent of the nones saying that “being honest at all times” was essential to being a moral person.
When Harvard chaplain Greg Epstein heard that honesty came out on top, it made a lot of sense to him. As author of “Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe,” Epstein has spent a considerable amount of time thinking about what nonbelievers actually hold to be true about tolerance, community, and morality.
“Of course these are people who are interested in honesty and integrity,” Epstein told The Huffington Post. “[Because if you’re coming out as non-religious], then you probably feel a very strong pull to tell the truth and to be honest with yourself and others about who you are.”
Epstein suggested that the act of coming out as a nonbeliever requires a good deal of soul searching and introspection. In a country like America, where theoverwhelming majority of people belong to some sort of religion, and wherestatistics show most of the public has negative feelings towards people who don’t believe in God, Epstein said that there really isn’t any incentive or social pressure to come out as non-religious, or atheist, or agnostic.
Some other essentials that the unaffiliated believe make a moral person are being grateful for what you have (53 percent), committing to spend time with family (47 percent), forgiving those who have wronged you (39 percent), and working to protect the environment (35 percent).
Beliefs and practices that have been traditionally used to measure religiosity fell near the bottom of the list. About 10 percent of the unaffiliated believe praying regularly is essential to being moral. Two percent believe attending religious services is part of a moral life.
In an open-ended question, about a quarter (23 percent) of nones wrote that the “Golden Rule,” a behavior cited by Jesus in the Bible, was essential to morality.
For Epstein, the results of the Pew survey are evidence that the religiously unaffiliated community values action over belief in the supernatural. 
“[Humanist and nonreligious people] respect completely the fact that our religious neighbors also feel the need to pray, but our view is that action is irreplaceable,” Epstein said. “Actions ultimately make the difference between living a good life and not living a good life.” 

There are more religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S. than Catholics or mainline Protestants.

Congress Likely To Get Its Only Openly Atheist Member In November

Jamie Raskin will swear to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible.

WASHINGTON — Maryland state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) made headlines Tuesday by defeating a primary opponent who poured $12.7 million of his own money into the race — a record-setting amount for a self-funded U.S. House campaign. He could garner national attention again if he wins the general election — a likely possibility in Maryland’s heavily blue 8th Congressional District.
With a victory in November, Raskin would become the only openly atheist member of Congress.
Raskin does not hide his humanist beliefs, a philosophy that eschews supernatural faith and holds that it’s possible to lead an ethical life without fearing God. He is a member of the nonprofit American Humanist Association, which lobbies Congress on the separation of church and state, and was supported by the group’s Freethought Equality Fund political action committee. (He also teaches constitutional law.)
Raskin is perhaps best known in nontheist circles for testimony he gave in 2006 in favor of marriage equality in Maryland, when he reminded a state senator that lawmakers “place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don’t put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”
That retort, which he touts on his campaign website, briefly made Raskin a secular progressive folk hero. Now the nontheist community may celebrate him again.
“If successful in the general election, Raskin will be the only open nontheist serving in the U.S. Congress, the first ever to win an open seat, and just the second humanist to serve in Congress,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the Freethought Equality Fund, in a statement. “Raskin’s election is a significant event for the secular community and will help to dispel the baseless bias against this rapidly growing segment of America.”
Then-Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) acknowledged he was an atheist in 2007, but he had already served in Congress for over 30 years. Stark left the House in 2012 when he lost to a primary challenger.
The current Congress may be the most diverse ever, with increasing numbers ofwomen and people of color serving as a better reflection of the overall makeup of the U.S. But when it comes to religion, the beliefs of lawmakers remain woefully unrepresentative of the nation as a whole. Nearly one-quarter of Americans now place themselves in the broad category of religious “nones” — those who are religiously unaffiliated or simply don’t believe in God. But there are currently no open atheists in Congress, and only one member — Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — who lists herself as unaffiliated.
All of this speaks to the continued distrust of atheists in America. A recent Pew survey found that atheism was the most significant political liability among a range of possible traits. More than 50 percent of respondents said they’d be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who didn’t believe in God.
Public antipathy may be keeping other elected nonbelievers in the closet. Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) didn’t publicly admit he was an atheist until after he retired from Congress, more than 25 years after he came out as the first openly gay congressman. In 2014, Maggie Ardiente, communications director of the American Humanist Association, claimed there were 24 members of Congress who had privately admitted to the group that they didn’t believe in God.
While Raskin hasn’t hidden his humanist views, he hasn’t been especially outspoken about them during his congressional campaign. It’s not clear exactly how, or if, they would guide his work on Capitol Hill. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bishop McNeill, PAC manager for the Freethought Equality Fund, said he was confident that Raskin would continue to embody the progressive humanist philosophy that has already contributed to his appeal, whether the voters recognized it as such or not.
“I think one of the core principles of humanism is to use reason and compassion to make decisions in your everyday life, and for a politician, that means when you are debating public policy issues and casting votes,” he told HuffPost in a statement.
“It’s important that all politicians remember that they have a responsibility to represent all voters in their district, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion,” McNeill added. “Jamie Raskin has shown this ability while in the Maryland State Senate, and we’re confident he will be a strong humanist advocate in Congress if elected in November.”

Jamie Raskin doesn’t hide his belief that people can lead ethical lives without fearing God.

Ark-Building Creationist Explains Why It Was Totally Cool For God To Kill Almost Everyone

Ken Ham, the creationist behind the giant Noah’s Ark replica nearing completion in Kentucky, received some pointed questions on Twitter from those who have a problem with the central message in the biblical story. 
The Noah tale, which is in the Genesis, involves a massive global flood that wipes out the entire human race save for eight people — and that doesn’t sit right with some: 

 Ham, who debated evolution with Bill Nye the Science Guy in 2013, engaged in what seemed like a debate with all of Twitter over the issue. 
He fired off a series of tweets explaining not only why God killed off much of the world’s population, but also how it’s not his fault he had to wipe out everyone. 
It was ours. Here’s a sampling: 

Many responded to Ham as he sent out his tweets — with some mocking the ark and the very unbiblical way in which it’s being built:

 The Ark Encounter is set to open this summer in Williamstown, Kentucky.

(h/t Mediaite)


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Court smacks down Kansas Christians for labeling evolution a religion to force school ban

A federal court rejected the argument from a Christian group in Kansas which said that evolution was religious “indoctrination” and should not be taught in schools.
After the state of Kansas adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) argued that teaching science without a religious explanation for the creation of the universe would indoctrinate children into atheism.
COPE said that teaching evolution took children “into the religious sphere by leading them to ask ultimate religious questions like what is the cause and nature of life and the universe – ‘where do we come from?’
“The purpose of the indoctrination is to establish the religious Worldview, not to deliver to an age appropriate audience an objective and religiously neutral origins science education that seeks to inform,” the group insisted.
But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver last week upheld a lower court’s ruling which said that COPE lacked standing to bring the suit because it could not show that it had been harmed.
“COPE does not offer any facts to support the conclusion that the Standards condemn any religion or send a message of endorsement,” the court decision stated. “And any fear of biased instruction is premised on COPE’s predictions of school districts’ responses to the Standards—an attempt by COPE to recast a future injury as a present one.”
“The purpose of the indoctrination is to establish the religious Worldview, not to deliver to an age appropriate audience an objective and religiously neutral origins science education that seeks to inform,” the group insisted.
But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver last week upheld a lower court’s ruling which said that COPE lacked standing to bring the suit because it could not show that it had been harmed.
“COPE does not offer any facts to support the conclusion that the Standards condemn any religion or send a message of endorsement,” the court decision stated. “And any fear of biased instruction is premised on COPE’s predictions of school districts’ responses to the Standards—an attempt by COPE to recast a future injury as a present one.”
“It’s a nonsensical argument, which is why courts have unanimously rejected it,” Americans United said. “COPE, it seems, isn’t interested in promoting facts; it’s interested in forcing public schools to conduct far-right religious and political indoctrination.”
The statement added: “[COPE] can send their children to private, religious schools, they can homeschool or they can offer supplemental instruction at home. But they aren’t entitled to a sectarian education on the public dime or to insist on policies that dumb-down every other child’s education.”
Ars Technicha pointed out that the 10th Circuit included a footnote in its ruling, stating that it would have found COPE’s remedy that creationism to be taught alongside evolution to be unconstitutional based on a 1987 Supreme Court ruling in theEdwards v. Aguillard case.

A student who is studying physics (Shutterstock)