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“Why is God Telling Me to Stop Asking Questions?”: Meet the Woman Behind Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos

Ann Druyan, executive producer/writer of "Cosmos", participates in Fox Broadcasting Company's part of the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter 2014 presentations in Pasadena,
As the host of the recently concluded series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” – now available on home video, if you missed it – Neil deGrasse Tyson became, along with America’s most prominent astrophysicist, the public face of science in its effort to recapture the public imagination. But although Tyson is an important author in his own right, he didn’t conceive, write or produce “Cosmos.” [Read more]

Gay-Hating Holy Rollers Descend on D.C.

1403257594854.cached[1]Steps from our nation’s Capitol, I was approached by Morton, a youthful-looking 68-year-old Virginia native with artificially blond hair and a fistful of flyers that read, “Gay Greed” and “Gay Sex Leads to Adult Diapers.” “They’re not born with it, you know,” Morton offered, unprompted. “If anybody opens the back door unnaturally from outside, you end up having open-door syndrome. You can’t close the door. Anal sex harms [gays]. It reduces their life by, on average, 25 years—anal or oral sex.” [Read more]

What It’s Like to Go from a Hard-Core Catholic Upbringing to Atheism

shutterstock_146173748-edited[1]As a pretty avid atheist, it’s hard for me to accept at times that I wouldn’t exist without the Catholic Church. My dad was born and raised Catholic, but by the time he was an adult, he had stopped practicing. He met my mom, an atheist, and they had three kids. They had the perfect suburban family, were satisfied with their three lovely spawn, and my dad had his tubes tied (does that work for men? Whatever). Four years later, my mom went to a hardware store and met a Catholic priest who converted her in a matter of a few days, which in turn reignited my dad’s faith. [Read more]

Ohio Bus Driver Lied About Bible Stopping Bullets During an Attack, He Shot and Stabbed Himself

driver-262x350[1]Police found it suspicious that Rickey Wagoner, a 320-pound, 49-year-old bus driver working for the Dayton, Ohio transit system, was not winded after fighting for his life and running from his three alleged hoodie-wearing black teenage attackers. The operator lied when he told cops he was attacked, shot, stabbed and robbed by three black teens in February, police said Wednesday. The 49-year-old bus driver even told cops that two of the bullets struck a copy of “The Message,” a modern-day take on the New Testament, that the driver had stuffed into a chest pocket. It’s a miracle! No, it’s really not. [Read more]

Stoking Fire: Why Are Some Teachers Being Asked to Swear Allegiance to Catholic Doctrine?

cross-and-bible-375x250[1]As teachers across the country rejoice that the school year is over, and slowly begin to develop challenging and creative lesson plans for fall, educators in Catholic schools in Cincinnati, Ohio; Oakland, California; and throughout Hawaii are facing a different challenge: Whether to sign employment contracts affirming their wholehearted belief in Catholic precepts. As journalist Bill Berkowitz, who covers the religious and secular right wing, noted in a recent piece, the contracts require teachers “to pledge fealty to Catholic doctrine in their actions inside and outside the workplace.” [Read more]

Five Reasons Churches Need to “Come Out” on LGBTQ Rights

images[1]Our entire family, including my wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, and my two kids, took part in the Portland Gay Pride parade this weekend. We stood on a float in the rain and waved to thousands of people lining the streets, from the park blocks to the riverfront. It truly was a joyful day, but of course, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of the church officially being represented in the parade. Why not just take part as individuals? Why bring such a polarizing issue into the spotlight, especially one that might make many people uncomfortable? [Read more]

Brave Texas Teen Forces Public High School to Stop Promoting Christianity

1562518_1403059118.1474[1]A brave young atheist in Texas is being celebrated by secular Americans after reporting a series of constitutional violations at his public high school, forcing the school to end their blatant promotion of Christianity. Recently Birdville High School graduate Isaiah Smith reported his school for openly promoting Christianity, detailing a series of Establishment Clause violations to the American Humanist Association. Violations Smith uncovered and documented include school sponsored religious Baccalaureate ceremonies, school sponsored religious assemblies during school hours, overnight retreats held at a local church, and Christian iconography (symbols) in classrooms. [Read more]

Legally Bind Businesses to Respect Human Rights, Says ACT Alliance

norways-finance-minister-siv-jensen[1]A meeting at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva must initiate a first-ever internationally binding legal instrument to hold corporations that violate human rights accountable, the ACT Alliance has said. “It is time to ensure that everybody, including powerful corporations, respect human rights and start being held legally accountable for their actions and inactions,” said Pauliina Parhiala, deputy general secretary at ACT Alliance in a June 17 statement. [Read more]

The Devastating Issue Pastors Aren’t Discussing

protestant-pastors-survey-on-sexual-and-domestic-violence[1]The vast majority of Protestant pastors and clergy drastically underestimate the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual abuse within their congregations, says a new report from Sojourners and IMA World Health. Despite a 2013 World Health Organization study that showed that 35 percent of women globally have been victims of “physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence,” and a 2011 U.S. Center for Disease Control survey with similar figures, nearly 40 percent of pastors believe that only five percent or fewer of their congregants have been victimized in the same way. [Read more]

Did the U.S. and Israel Want Open-Ended Chaos in the Mideast?

31a9f43e557b3d9f57aa386788767705fed7e26d[1]During the last week we have seen Sunni militias take control of ever-greater swathes of eastern Syria and western Iraq. In the mainstream media, the analysis of this emerging reality has been predictably idiotic, basically centering on whether:
a) Obama is to blame for this for having removed US troops in compliance with the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated and signed by Bush.
b) Obama is “man enough” to putatively resolve the problem by going back into the country and killing more people and destroying whatever remains of the country’s infrastructure. [Read more]

Douglas County Parent Upset Over Christian Student Fundraising

christian-mission-trip-6pkg[1]There are claims that a public school is promoting religion and a group wants the practice to stop in Douglas County. The American Humanist Association sent out a letter to the Douglas County School District based on a parent’s complaint saying Christianity should not be promoted in any way by schools or its employees. The district says they support students being leaders in fundraising. The parent who complained has a student who attends Highlands Ranch High School and spotted fundraising websites by a Christian group within the public school. [Read more]

Ancient Skulls Reveal ‘Mixed’ Neanderthal-Like Lineage

hominin-skull-1[1]A key first step in Neanderthal evolution may have been the development of front teeth that could act like a “third hand,” researchers now say. These new findings are based on 17 hominin skulls showing a mix of traits from Neanderthals and more primitive human lineages, dating back some 430,000 years. The specimens likely belonged to a hominin group within the Neanderthal lineage but perhaps not direct Neanderthal ancestors. [Read more]

Religious Conservatives to Judge Top Republicans

460x[1]Some of the Republican Party’s most ambitious leaders are courting religious conservatives as evangelical Christians claim new momentum in their fight for the GOP’s soul. The Faith and Freedom Coalition, led by long-time Christian political activist Ralph Reed, launches its annual conference Thursday with appearances by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Almost every other top-tier prospective presidential hopeful is on the agenda for the three-day gathering in Washington. [Read more]

Sen. Claire McCaskill Brings Down the Hammer on Pseudoscience-Purveyor Dr. Oz

464vmPZ[1]We know Dr. Mehmet Oz pushes a lot of pseudoscience on his syndicated talk show. He went from being known as America’s most trusted doctor when he appeared onOprah (and a very talented surgeon) to being known as a purveyor of quack medicine that has no basis in science. Earlier today, he was called to testify before Congress at the request of Senator Claire McCaskill for one particularly egregious scam promoted, in part, by Oz. [Read more]

Compassion is a Strength

BT_greater_happiness_final[1]The average American with a full-time job works 1,700 hours a year. That’s a lot of hours. Given how much time we spend with our co-workers, shouldn’t we want to build happier relationships with them? If you value your time then learn to become happier at work by learning to value more those around you. Start by showing them greater compassion. Unfortunately, compassion gets a bad rap, especially in the business world where the “rules” often seem to follow the law of the jungle. Sharon Salzberg, a Buddhist meditation expert and the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, wants to change that. [Read more]

New Creationism Museum Says Noah Brought Baby Dinosaurs Aboard the Ark

creationist_rect-620x412[1]There is now a pseudo-science creation museum in Boise, Idaho. The Northwest Science Museum opened its doors to the public on Saturday, reports the Idaho Statesman. The museum’s goal: portray a biblical understanding of creation, and dispute the widely accepted theory of evolution. According to the Idaho Statesman, it has exhibits “about life on Earth as created by God in six days, about 6,000 years ago.” “We want to show a lot of science that’s being censored and not presented to the public,” the museum’s executive director, Doug Bennett, told the Idaho Statesman. [Read more]

Statistics: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

baconbad[1]David Spiegelhalter, a distinguished British statistician and the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, is a fan of numbers. But, like a carton of eggs, they should be handled with care. Unfortunately, the media often splatters them all over the place. Take this headline for example. Eating bacon every day boosts the risk by cancer 20 percent? Sounds alarming, doesn’t it? [Read more]

The Coming Gay Marriage Witch Hunt

1403171203726.cached[1]Is this the new McCarthyism? With the battle over gay marriage beyond hope, some conservatives say they fear being run out of public life for being on the losing side. The war is over. Or at least it is nearing its end. In November 2012, same-sex marriage was legalized at the ballot box in Maryland, Maine, and Washington, while Minnesota defeated a constitutional ban. Since then, bills legalizing same-sex marriage have been passed in Rhode Island and Delaware. [Read more]

As ISIS Advances, What Future for Iraqi Christians?

0618-oiraqchristians_full_600[1]Just a few miles from Mosul, the map of Iraq is being redrawn in a cataclysmic restructuring of an area that was home to some of the earliest Christians. The takeover of the city and wide swaths of other territory by the Al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has pushed half a million people out of Mosul, including tens of thousands of Christians and members of other ancient Iraqi religious minorities that have been a target of Al Qaeda attacks. Most of them are seeking refuge farther north in Kurdish-controlled territories. [Read more]

Chopra Follows Up His Million Dollar Challenge, and a Short Parody

Deepak Chopra desperately needs treatment for Maru’s Syndrome, for he simply can’t stay out of the box. In the last couple of day’s he’s put up two more videos on Randi’s “The Amazing Meeting” (TAM) and Chopra’s own Million Dollar Challenge.

[Read more]

Church Delegates Question ‘Life’ Ballot Measure

A chapter of a church organization representing thousands of people in North Dakota has come out against a right-to-life measure set to appear on the November ballot. Delegates with the Northern Plains Conference of the United Church of Christ voted on the issue earlier this month. [Read more]

Islam’s Way to End Violence Against Women? Civilized Men

“She made me do it.” I hear this phrase all too often, and each time I hear it my heart bleeds. In my pro bono legal practice, I represent indigent women who suffer or have suffered through domestic violence. [Read more]

New Creation Museum for Boise, Idaho

This could be bad news for Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) and his mind-boggling Creation Museum. There’s a competing tourist attraction starting up in Boise, Idaho called the Northwest Science Museum. [Read more]

Mormon Church Drops Adoption Business

The timing of Tuesday’s announcement that LDS Family Services is getting out of the adoption business couldn’t be worse for Sonia Quiroga Thomas and her husband, Jeff Thomas. [Read more]

Methodist Pastor Who Performed Gay Son’s Wedding to Appeal Defrocking

Frank Schaefer this week will be appealing the outcome of last year’s trial that stripped him of his lifelong vocation as minister of the United Methodist Church. The former minister of Lebanon, Pa., was suspended on Nov. 18 for 30 days by a jury of pastors for officiating at the same-sex marriage of his son in Massachusetts. [Read more]

Everything Normative Islam Stands For

It’s helpful when reactionary theocrats spell out how reactionary and theocratic they are. There’s this guy Ghulam Esposito Haydar for instance. He’s not pleased that a liberal Muslim has been invited to speak at the Living Islam Festival. [Read more]

Presbyterians Set Vote on Same-Sex Marriage at Convention in Detroit

As a Presbyterian minister for almost 30 years, the Rev. Robin White of West Virginia has often prayed for sick people on their deathbeds, baptized babies and led youth ski trips. “To me, it’s about love,” White said of her work. [Read more]

Kazakhstan Eyes “Unified” Islamic Banking Law Next Year

Kazakhstan will start drafting a new Islamic banking law that could help the industry develop in the former Soviet state, after a five-year-old set of rules failed to stimulate activity. [Read more]

No ‘Amen,’ But Nonbeliever Wins Praise for His Invocation

All that was missing from David Williamson’s invocation Monday was an “amen.” The founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community, an association of “nonbelievers” and a chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, delivered the ceremonial opening to Monday’s meeting of the Osceola County Commission, a role almost always filled by clergy, usually Christian clergy. [Read more]

Essex PhD Student ‘Murdered for Being Muslim’, Police Fear

A Saudi Arabian student stabbed to death in Essex may have been targeted because she was a Muslim, police have confirmed. Nahid Almanea, 31, was wearing a dark blue full-length robe and a patterned head-scarf when she was brutally attacked on Tuesday. [Read more]

Pluralism Is the Enemy: ‘Jesus Is the Only Way’ Will Be Deemed Hate Speech, Says Pastor

Pluralism, not gender and sexuality, will be the biggest issue that every evangelical Christian will face, according to one Presbyterian pastor. Bryan Chapell warned that increasingly “it will be difficult to say in this culture that ‘Jesus is the only way.'” [Read more]

Elliott Rodger: Madman vs. Misogynist (A Response to JaclynGlenn)

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