, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How I Became a Humanist

stairs-300x181[1]My name is Chris Campbell. I am twenty-three years old and I have cerebral palsy. I communicate using a computer, typing one letter at a time using a switch I control by moving my head. I was brought up as a Catholic, but now I am an atheist. What caused this change to occur? First, because I use a wheelchair, I stopped going to mass because it was hard for me to get into most churches. Churches tend to have many stairs, making it difficult for disabled people to enter. [Read more]

De Blasio More Willing Than Bloomberg to Blur Lines Between City Hall, Religious Groups

bdbreligiona2f36291-73e8-4012-9cb7-178d18b3db40[1]Mayor Bill de Blasio is handing over some $38 million in public money to religious organizations to teach pre-K to city 4-year-olds. Religious groups are a key part of his universal pre-kindergarten program. “There’s lots of quality control. There’s lots of monitoring,” de Blasio said. De Blasio is also welcoming religious groups that want to worship inside public school buildings when they are not in use. [Read more]

Schools and the Failure of Multiculturalism and Multifaithism

350x[1]The spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May focuses on the failure to tackle Islamic extremism in Birmingham’s schools. Whether such failure can be attributed to one party or the other is, in fact, a moot point. The real problem has deeper roots: it resides in the failure of multiculturalism and multi-faithism. Given that both the previous and present governments describe Britain as being a multi-faith society, it is entirely to be expected that leaders of those groups for whom their faith trumps all other indicators of identity, will seek robustly to instill the imprimatur of the values and practices of their religion. [Read more]

Republicans Court Religious Conservatives At Faith And Freedom Conference

2014 Father Of The Year AwardsNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is joining the parade of ambitious Republicans courting religious conservatives as the early jockeying for the next presidential contest intensifies. Christie was to deliver his first major address to an evangelical conference on Friday, the second day of the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual meeting, which brings hundreds of social conservative leaders to Washington. [Read more]

California School Faces Lawsuit After Censoring Bible Reference from Graduation Speech

660-Brooks-Hamby-200x112[1]Local school officials in California censored the graduation speech of a Christian student, telling him “reference to religious content is inappropriate and… will not be allowed” and threatening to cut off his microphone if he expressed his faith in Jesus Christ. Now the student’s lawyers are demanding an apology or they will sue in federal court. Brooks Hamby was the salutatorian this year at Brawley Union High School. He is a committed Christian who wanted in his speech to give God credit for the blessings in his life. [Read more]

A New Website for Atheists Who Have Suffered the Death of a Loved One

nsWLXW9[1]In 2011, after dealing with the loss of her three-month-old son and the typical reactions she received from well-meaning friends and family members, atheist Rebecca Hensler began a Facebook group called Grief Beyond Belief. That group now has more than 10,000 Likes and Rebecca is ready to take it to the next level. Today, Grief Beyond Belief is moving to its own website, where there are far more resources for those who need it. I hope I never have to use it… but I’m relieved and thankful to Rebecca for putting it together for that inevitable moment when it becomes necessary. [Read more]

What is Religion?

454081171[1]Many say the etymology of religion lies with the Latin word religare, which means “to tie, to bind.” This seems to be favored on the assumption that it helps explain the power religion has. The Oxford English Dictionary points out, though, that the etymology of the word is doubtful. Earlier writers like Cicero connected the term with relegere, which means “to read over again” (perhaps to emphasize the ritualistic nature of religions?). Some argue that religion doesn’t really exist — there is only culture. [Read more]

Do the Ends Justify Supernaturalist Means?

westminsterabbey-300x225[1]Two recent news items highlight a troublesome tendency in political discourse to grab whatever allies one can get, without regard to the ultimate damage done to the decision-making process itself. In England, the House of Bishops of the Church of England earlier this month took an official position against two established political parties, and threatened disciplinary action against any member of the clergy who aligned himself or herself with one of these parties. The two parties—the British Nationalist Party (BNP) and the National Front—seek restriction on immigration to the UK, and oppose what they claim to be preferential treatment for immigrants over native-born Britons. [Read more]

Clinically Dead? The Blurred Line Between Life and Death

door-to-heaven[1]Sometimes, the line between life and death can seem blurred. In one recent case, a woman was erroneously declared dead after having a heart attack and wound up freezing to death in a body bag in the morgue. Another woman gave birth to a baby three months after she technically died. Then, there was a case of a skier who became submerged under freezing water for hours, but was revived and suffered no brain damage. These and other cases reveal how hard it can be to distinguish the living from the dead. [Read more]

Neanderthal-Human Skulls Shed Light on Evolution

dnews-files-2014-06-Ancient-human-skull-140619-670x440-jpg[1]Skulls found in a Spanish cave exhibit both Neanderthal and primitive human features, according to a new study published in the journal Science. The discovery provides clues about when the common ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals lived, what happened after the two groups diverged, and how the two became so different over a relatively short period of time. There is consensus about the ending of the story: Modern humans and Neanderthals interbred, and Neanderthal DNA is still present in people of European and Asian ancestry. [Read more]

French Jews Leave for Israel in Increasing Numbers

460x[3]Increasing numbers of French Jews are leaving for Israel, citing dim economic prospects and a sense of being caught between an increasingly influential far right and militant Islam. More than 5,000 are on track to leave this year, the most since after the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel, seeing the influx as a success, is doubling down on its efforts to attract Europeans, planning to dedicate $29 million over two years to bring in new immigrants. France has the world’s third-largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States – about 500,000, according to rough estimates. [Read more]

Pastor’s Wife on How to ‘Pick Up’ a Stripper, Ministry to Adult Entertainment Industry

todd-and-erin-stevens[1]The desire of a Tennessee pastor’s wife to feed the needy, including strippers throughout Nashville nightclubs, has grown into a full blown ministry that’s also about spreading the Gospel as well. Erin Stevens, whose husband Todd leads Friendship Community Church, still believes in showing God’s love through practical ways just like she has done since she began her ministry nearly two years ago. Stevens provides meals and gifts with no strings attached as part of her Strip Church Ministry. In their new book, “How to Pick Up A Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness,” the Stevens’ urge readers to step out of their comfort zone in order to reach people for Christ, while remaining culturally relevant, without compromising their goal of demonstrating God’s love through actions. [Read more]

Despicable Sean Hannity Invites Bullied Muslim Woman on His Show, Bullies Her Some More

han3[1]There were just a few minor outbreaks of sanity in the right-wing media this week. A lot of us are still in shock that Glenn Beck announced liberals were right about Iraq. (Then again, he is certifiably crazy. You never know what he’s going to say.) Then there was Fox’s Megyn Kelly grilling Dick Cheney about Iraq, and trying to get him to admit he was wrong about every aspect of the war, sir. (She did call him sir.) But these were isolated instances. Despicableness incarnate Sean Hannity showed no such courtesy to a guest he invited on his show Thursday night, Saba Ahmed. [Read more]

UK Gov’t Bans Teaching of Creationism as Scientifically Valid in Academies, Public Schools

lucy-exhibit-at-the-creation-museum[1]Secular groups in the U.K. are rejoicing after the government clarified that creationism, supported by biblical literalists, is not allowed to be taught as a scientifically valid theory at academies and public-funded schools. The Department of Education’s funding agreement, under the “Church of England and Catholic single academy model supplemental agreement” document published earlier in June, states that creationism “does not accord with the scientific consensus or the very large body of established scientific evidence; nor does it accurately and consistently employ the scientific method, and as such it should not be presented to pupils at the Academy as a scientific theory.” [Read more]

A Place at the Podium

podium-300x199[1]In May of last year I attended a rally with my union, the United Federation of Teachers, which is a federation of teachers, nurses, and other professionals working in New York City’s five boroughs. We were joined by other city unions in an effort to bring attention to the need for a higher minimum wage. My thirty-plus years as a New York City teacher meant that I often attended these rallies in the city. There was something very different about this one. [Read more]

A “Religious Ethos” is Not Why Faith Schools Succeed – It’s Selection That Does It

350x[3]The headline in the Coventry Telegraph was pretty unequivocal “Coventry Faith Schools Report Better GCSE results than other city schools“. As far as the dwindling number of enthusiasts for religion-based schools are concerned this is the reason we need “faith schools”. They achieve. Their ethos of religion and, by implication, superior morality, makes them better academically as well. [Read more]

Pope Francis to Visit the Heart of Italy’s Mafia Country

RNS-POPE-MAFIAPope Francis will travel to the heartland of the Italian mafia for the first time Saturday (June 21), visiting the southern town where a 3-year-old was murdered in a local drug war earlier this year. Security will be extremely tight when the pope makes his one-day visit to Cassano allo Ionio in Calabria, one of Italy’s poorest regions, in what is certain to be his most powerful political statement against organized crime. The trip has renewed questions about Francis’ health; on Thursday, Vatican officials said he would not lead a religious procession on the streets of Rome late Thursday so that he could save his energy for his trip to Calabria. Francis, who had already put his weekly audiences and daily Mass on hold for much of the summer, opted to travel by car less than a mile between the St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major basilicas instead of leading a candle-lit procession for the Feast of Corpus Christi. [Read more]

Have Conservatives Abandoned Rationality, Skepticism and Truth?

composite_hamtyson_0[1]For consumer advocates and other skeptically minded folks who promote reason and evidence over wishful thinking, watching Sen. Claire McCaskill rip into Dr. Mehmet Oz—a surgeon who teaches at Columbia University who made his fame as the host of “The Dr. Oz Show”—was a thing of beauty. Despite his seemingly impeccable medical resume, Oz has long been a target for consumer advocates who criticize his endless willingness to shill for any “miracle” herbal remedy or supplement he promises will help melt the pounds off fast, while in reality, doing no such thing. [Read more]

Nepal’s Living Goddess Who Still Has to do Homework

_75582814_goddess-top3[1]Samita Bajracharya is a 12-year-old Nepalese girl who lives with her family, studies hard, and enjoys playing a Nepali version of the lute. But until recently she was also worshipped by people who believed she was a reincarnated goddess. Along a busy thoroughfare in Lalitpur, near Kathmandu, a passageway leads into a large, open-air courtyard. In the back corner, there’s a modest home, with a red sign outside that simply reads, “Living Goddess”. A narrow wooden staircase leads up to the second floor, where the goddess spends much of her childhood. She’s called a Kumari, which means “young, unmarried girl”. [Read more]

Marching in Pride Parade is an ‘Internal Union Matter,’ Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association Head Says

pride[1]As controversy grows over its plans to participate in Toronto’s World Pride parade next Sunday, Ontario’s English Catholic teachers’ union does not have to follow church teachings and makes its decisions democratically. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association still plans to march, despite opposition from some Catholic boards and even Toronto’s cardinal. While teachers working for Catholic boards must abide by church teachings in the classroom, participation in a parade known for its nudity and gay pride is allowed because it is an “internal union” activity. [Read more]

What God Does to Your Brain

religion_2949006b[1]When neuroscientist Andrew Newberg scanned the brain of “Kevin”, a staunch atheist, while he was meditating, he made a fascinating discovery. “Compared with the Buddhist monks and Franciscan nuns, whose brains I’d also scanned, Kevin’s brain operated in a significantly different way,” he says. “He had far more activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area that controls emotional feelings and mediates attention. Kevin’s brain appeared to be functioning in a highly analytical way, even when he was in a resting state.” [Read more]

My Turn: Christian Persecution in America? Not So Much

It was with interest that I read Mark Huffman’s recent guest column in The Gazette in which he suggested that Christians in America are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Mr. Huffman expressed the view that religious liberties in our country are being thwarted by the government, et al., and went on to cite numerous examples to illustrate his contentions. [Read more]

Are Some Private Christian Schools Operating in Secret?

How many ACE schools are there really? In all the press coverage this week, it’s been a bit confused. The BBC website went with “about 50″. The Daily Mail said “up to 25″. The Manchester Evening Newsplumped for “22 UK schools”, while the Bristol Post claimed there were 30. As I write this, the CEE website lists 32 institutions, two of which are called ‘tuition centres’ and one of which is a nursery, leaving 29, the figure given by Jeremy Vine. On Newsnight, Anjana Ahuja told the world it was “at least 30″. [Read more]

Twitter Ends Its Censorship of ‘Blasphemous’ Tweets and Users Following Success of #TwitterTheocracy Campaign

Twitter has unblocked a number of tweets and users of its service, which it had blocked on May 18 following requests from Pakistan, following last week’s successful campaign, led by a number of humanist and non-religious organisations. [Read more]

Pastafarian’s Licence and Firearms Siezed Over ID Photo

A South Australian atheist who successfully had his gun licence printed with a photo of him wearing a colander on his head has been forced to undertake a psychological test to prove he is fit to own firearms. [Read more]

Study: Putting Religion on Your Résumé Hurts Your Job Chances — Unless You’re Jewish

It was a big deal on AMC’s “Mad Men” when Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce hired Michael Ginsberg in season five. Hiring “the Jew,” as Roger Sterling referred to him, was an attempt to update the agency’s image in an era (1966) when those who clung to the notion that business was a WASPy boys’ club were on the wrong side of the generation gap – a potential problem for an ad firm looking to reach young consumers. [Read more]

The Science of Genius

Identifying genius is a dicey venture. Consider, for example, this ranking of “The Top 10 Geniuses” I recently stumbled across on Listverse.com. From first to last place, here are the honorees: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, Emanuel Swedenborg, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, John Stuart Mill, Blaise Pascal, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bobby Fischer, Galileo Galilei and Madame de Staël. [Read more]

Can an Atheist Pay Respect to the Religious?

I was raised a Protestant Christian in my youth and my family were consistent Christians (grandfather was a minister), although not flaming evangelicals. My wife was raised a Buddhist and still is respectful of her family who are predominantly Buddhists. [Read more]

Definition of Theological Noncognitivism

Noncognitivism, or theological noncognitivism, is defined as the position that religious language — and specifically religious terms like “god” — are not (cognitively) meaningful. This definition means that noncognitivism denies the essential meaningfulness of religious language, religious arguments, and religious apologetics. [Read more]

WorldNetDaily Pundit Wants ‘White Christian Conservative’ President Because Of Michelle Obama’s Vacations, Benghazi

WorldNetDaily columnist Mychal Massie is no fan of First Lady Michelle Obama, and is citing her lack of “social grace and decorum” and “lavish shopping sprees” as reasons that the next president should be “a white Christian conservative.” Not missing a beat, Massie also cites #Benghazi as a reason not to have a person of color succeed President Obama. [Read more]

Scientifically, God Does Not Exist: Science Allows us to Say God Does Not Exist

A popular objection to atheists’ arguments and critiques of theism is to insist that one’s preferred god cannot be disproven — indeed, that science itself is unable to prove that God does not exist. This position depends upon a mistaken understanding of the nature of science and how science operates. [Read more]

Black Megachurch Frauds

In the US, crooks are drawn to religion like flies to honey. The combination of not having to pay taxes or even open up their books for close scrutiny, combined with a population that is both needy and highly gullible, provides an irresistible attraction for frauds and conmen.

[Read more]

Robert Gagnon At FRC: Bible Says Gay Sex Worse Than Incest

Earlier this year, Christian author Matthew Vines published a book entitled “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.” Vines’ book so angered Religious Right leaders like Matt Barber that its publisher was pushed out of the National Religious Broadcasters.  The Southern Baptist Convention rushed out an e-book: “God and the Gay Christian? A response to Matthew Vines.”

[Read more]

Pagans Of Seekers Temple Face Discrimination In Beebe, Arkansas

Bertram and Felicia Dahl initially got a supportive response from the local government of Beebe, Arkansas, when they announced their intentions to open a church in the garage behind their home, but Mayor Mike Robertson completely changed his mind upon hearing that the Dahls’ place of worship was a pagan church, reports Arkansas Matters.

[Read more]