Thursday, April 23, 2009

Show From: April 17, 2009

De-Baptism Gains a Following in Britain

More than 100,000 former Christians have downloaded "certificates of de-baptism" in a bid to publicly renounce the faith, according to the London-based National Secular Society (NSS).

Terry Sanderson, the society's president, says the group started the online de-baptism initiative five years ago to mock the practice of baptizing infants too young to consent to religious rites. Their web site invites visitors to "Liberate yourself from the Original Mumbo-Jumbo that liberated you from the Original Sin you never had" and allows them to print out a paper certificate that uses quasi-formal language to "reject baptism's creeds and other such superstitions." But in recent months, as tens of thousands began to download the certificate, organizers realized that they had struck a chord with atheists and once-devout church members who are leaving churches they see as increasingly out-of-tune with modern life.

The campaign has become so popular — with nearly 1,000 certificates downloaded each week — that the NSS has started taking orders for certificates printed on parchment, at $4.50 each; they've sold nearly 2,000 in just three weeks. "Every time the Pope says something outrageous we get another rush on the certificate,"

In October last year, Italy's Union of Rationalist Atheist and Agnostics sponsored the country's first-ever "De-baptism Day," when the no-longer faithful attended protests and passed out de-baptism forms to areligious people who didn't have internet connections to download them. More recently, on March 2, atheists and feminists in Argentina teamed up to launch the "Not in my Name" Internet campaign which encourages Roman Catholics to notify their local bishops of their desire to officially leave the church. So far more than 1,800 have joined their Facebook group or signed the petition on their website

According to Argentine campaigner Ariel Bellino, a former Catholic: "The church counts all those who've been baptized as Catholic and lobbies for legislation based on that number, so we're trying to convey the importance of people expressing they no longer belong to the church."

Given that God takes on different forms for different people, the NSS has been approached by non-believers are far away as Australia, Romania and Saudi Arabia requesting certificates tailored to their former faith. "We've had Jewish people write in asking, 'Can I have a certificate to undo my bar mitzvah?'" says Sanderson. And while the group is considering those requests, there's at least one recurring query they're certain they can't undo, symbolically or otherwise: "How can I get myself uncircumcised?"


Jesus Missing From Obama's Georgetown Speech

Amidst all of the American flags and presidential seals, there was something missing when President Barack Obama gave an economic speech at Georgetown University this week -- Jesus.

The White House asked Georgetown to cover a monogram symbolizing Jesus' name in Gaston Hall, which Obama used for his speech, according to

The gold "IHS" monogram inscribed on a pediment in the hall was covered over by a piece of black-painted plywood, and remained covered over the next day.
While the "IHS" directly behind where Obama spoke was covered over, said the monogram was still visible in 26 other places in the hall during his speech. Those areas just weren't as prominent.

Catholic University spokesman Victor Nakas felt a bit more strongly on the subject:
"I can’t imagine, as the bishops’ university and the national university of the Catholic Church, that we would ever cover up our religious art or signage for any reason," Mr. Nakas wrote. "Our Catholic faith is integral to our identity as an institution of higher education."


Crucified nun dies in 'exorcism'

Members of the convent in north-east Romania claim Maricica Irina Cornici was possessed and that the crucifixion had been part of an exorcism ritual.

Cornici was found dead on the cross on Wednesday after fellow nuns called an ambulance, according to police.

Police say the 23-year-old nun, who was denied food and drink throughout her ordeal, had been tied and chained to the cross and a towel pushed into her mouth to smother any sounds.

Father Daniel who is accused of orchestrating the crime is said to be unrepentant.
"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil,"


Force is strong for Jedi police

Strathclyde Police said the officers and two of its civilian staff claimed to follow the faith, which features in the Star Wars movies.

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police confirmed: "At the time of the request, 10 (eight police officers and two police staff) had recorded their religion as Jedi."

About 390,000 people listed their religion as Jedi in the 2001 Census for England and Wales. In Scotland the figure was a reported 14,000


Devotees re-enact the Crucifixion

Filipino devotees and an Australian man have re-enacted the Crucifixion by having themselves nailed to a cross in the Philippines.

John Michael, a 33-year-old Australian from Melbourne, and four Filipino devotees, including a woman, were nailed to crosses in a makeshift stage on a basketball court in northern Bulacan province's Paombong town as thousands of spectators looked on.
Ruben Enaje, 48, was nailed to the cross in San Pedro Cutud for the 23rd year. He said it is his way of thanking God for his miraculous survival after falling from a building.

Other devotees say they go through the pain to fulfil a vow or to pray for a cure for an illness in the family.


Atheists Flock to Secular Sunday School

Christian kids are typically sent to Sunday school for lessons on the Bible and morals. For nonbelievers, there's atheist Sunday school.

With an estimated 14 percent of Americans professing to have no religion, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies, some are choosing to send their children to classes that teach ethics without religious belief.

Bri Kneisley sent her 10-year-old son, Damian, to Camp Quest Ohio this past summer after a neighbor had shown him the Bible.

"Damian was quite certain this guy was right and was telling him this amazing truth that I had never shared," said Kneisley, who realized her son needed to learn about secularism, according to Time magazine.

Camp Quest, also dubbed "The Secular Summer Camp," is offered for children of atheists, freethinkers, humanists and other nonbelievers who hold to a "naturalistic, not supernatural world view," the camp website states.

The summer camp, offered across North America and supported by the Institute for Humanist Studies, is designed to teach rational inquiry, critical thinking, scientific method, ethics, free speech, and the separation of religion and government.

Kneisley welcomes the sense of community the camp offers her son. "He's a child of atheist parents, and he's not the only one in the world," she said, according to Time.

Atheist and humanist programs are expected to pop up in such cities as Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Portland, Ore., and adult nonbelievers are leaning on such secular Sunday schools to help teach their kids values and how to respond to the Christian majority in the United States.

Show From: April 10, 2009

I didn't keep show notes for this episode for some reason, so all I have here is the link to the audio file, sorry. Anyway, enjoy!

Show From: April 3, 2009

First off, in a move to appease Islamic radicals, the president of Afganistan has essentially made rape legal. It negates the need for sexual consent inside of marriage, approves child marriage, and restricts a woman’s right to leave the home.


Next, we have some results back from the Texas Science standards rulings. While the creationists certainly didn’t win, they did get a little something. The age of the universe is going to be erased from the schools’ science curriculum.


In the case of the Maryland mother who allowed her son to starve to death after a leader of her religious group determined that the boy was a demon due to his not saying “amen” after meals, the mother has pleaded guilty—with one catch. The charges are to be dropped against her once her son is resurrected, which she fully expect he will be. The DA was only too happy to agree to the terms. The defense will be represented by God. No, really. That’s the defending lawyer.


Today, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rejected a state law that banned same-sex marriage. The decision will become effective in 21 days. Non-Iowan can seek a marriage license in the sate. Of course, not everyone was quite so happy. An ammendemnt is already being pushed trhough the state congress, but the Supreme Court has said it will not back down, saying that especially under Iowan law, same sex couples are severly hurt in tangible and intanglible ways when they are not allowed to get married.


More Atheist ads from the Freedom From Religion Foundation have been rolled out on buses in Madison, Wisconsin. 50 buses in the city will hold the varying signs from the organization. The FFRF has also placed billboards in over 25 cities in at least 15 states.
In response to the ads, a church put up ads that quoted the famous Psalm 14:1 verse “The fool has said in his heart, there is no god.” They seem to have forgotten Matthew 5:22 where Jesus himself says that whoever calls someone else a fool is in danger of hellfire. Guess they forgot that one in their rush to become a mass of puerile namecallers.

Godless Wisdom: "Atheism is a Solace"

This is so true. Please watch this video by Penn Jillette and hopefully grasp a better understanding of how powerful atheism can be.

Show From: Mar. 27, 2009

Obama Lifts Bush’s Strict Limits on Stem Cell Research:

Pledging that his administration will “make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,” President Obama on Monday lifted the Bush administration’s strict limits on human embryonic stem cell research.
At a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, before an audience that included lawmakers, scientists and patients, several of them in wheelchairs, Mr. Obama announced that he was issuing an executive order intended to advance the research. He said he hoped Congress would follow with bipartisan legislation that would ease the existing restrictions even more.
The president acknowledged that studying stem cells extracted from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process, is deeply divisive.
“Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research,” the president said. “I understand their concerns, and we must respect their point of view.”
But Mr. Obama went on to say that the majority of Americans “have come to a consensus that we should pursue this research; that the potential it offers is great, and with proper guidelines and strict oversight the perils can be avoided.”
In making his announcement, Mr. Obama drew a strict line against human cloning, an issue that over the years has become entangled with the debate over human embryonic stem cell research.
He said that he would ensure that his administration “never opens the door” to cloning for human reproduction, adding, “It is dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society or any society.”
Mr. Obama paired his executive order with another document, a presidential memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to “develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making.”


Science standards challenging evolution debated in Texas:

The Texas Board of Education this week will vote on science standards that critics say seek to cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

The board -- considering amendments passed in January -- will hear from the public on Wednesday. It will then take votes -- an initial one Thursday and the final vote Friday.
"This specific attack on well-established science ignores mountains of evidence and years of research done by experts in a variety of fields," said Steven Newton, project director at the Oakland California-based National Center for Science Education, a proponent of evolution.
One amendment, critics say, undermines the idea that life on Earth derives from a common ancestry, a major principle in the theory of evolution. It calls for the analysis and evaluation of "the sufficiency or insufficiency" of the common ancestry idea to explain the fossil record.
Newton said the board is considering other amendments casting doubt on well-established ideas in the earth and space sciences -- plate tectonics, radioactive decay and how the solar system developed.
School board chairman Don McLeroy has wanted to tackle questions that highlight supposed weaknesses in the theory.
For example, skeptics of evolution point to what they contend are fossil record gaps casting doubt on the scientific evidence of common ancestry.
"I'm a skeptic. I'm an evolution skeptic. I don't think it's true," he said. "You need to present other ideas to the kids."
The issue reflects the strong feelings among representatives on the 15-member board, some of whom accept evolutionary theory and some of whom don't. The size of the textbook market in Texas gives it influence nationwide, as publishers adapt their material to its standards.
The board in January voted to remove language that called on science teachers to focus on the "strengths and weaknesses" in all scientific theories.
It was replaced by language urging students to use "empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing" to "analyze and evaluate scientific explanations."
More amendments are expected to be brought up in the three-day hearing.


Pope Tells Clergy in Angola to Work Against Belief in Witchcraft:

Pope Benedict XVI, nearing the end of his first pilgrimage to Africa, on Saturday told priests and nuns of their duty to divert their fellow Angolans from malign beliefs in witchcraft and sorcery.
“Who can go to them to proclaim that Christ has triumphed over death and all those occult powers?” he asked guests at an invitation-only Mass in the blue-domed splendor of St. Paul’s Church in the capital.
Morning light flooded through stained-glass windows — a depiction of Christ on the cross in the center — as the 81-year-old, German-born pontiff spoke of Angolans so fearful of evil spirits that they wrongly condemn innocent children and the elderly for being possessed by demons.
It was a somber moment at the end of Benedict’s homily, words of challenge to the devout white-frocked worshipers crowded into the pews.

Godless Wisdom: "Don't Stop Believing"

Today’s Godless Wisdom comes to you from: Adam Gopnik in an article from Search Magazine, titled, “Don’t Stop Believing.”

--A lot of atheists don’t believe in atheism right now. That is, they view with a certain embarrassment the louder arguments that have lately filled the best-seller lists. The feeling comes less from disagreement with those arguments than from the fear of a kind of Gradgrindism of the heart. Just as the dumber anti-scientism writers treat science as mere product rather than as spiritual adventure, the louder atheists often treat spiritual yearning as mere product, too, reducible to nice buildings or fine music.

The aesthetic sense and the religious sense are permanently joined, however. We go to Italy or India in wonder and we cannot wish away the religious basis of the icons and images we see any more than the religious can wish away obvious, humane progress as mere technology.

For all the stormy arguments, I still think, as Darwin did, that a decent pluralism is possible. It is a pluralism rooted neither in mysticism nor in Stephen Jay Gould’s separate “magisteria” but in plain social fact. Whether we ought to find something unbridgeable between science and faith, the first fact is that we haven’t. Darwinism has been the basis of biology for a century and a half; meanwhile not only have fundamentalists remained fundamental, but poets have gone on writing Christian poetry, and mystics have gone on doing mystical work.

It’s a good thing we can’t reconcile all our beliefs with each other because the possibility of alteration is the healthiest part of our ability to believe. Of course, it is possible to imagine a day in which the forces of intolerance could overwhelm the habits of pluralism. But it hasn’t happened, not yet, and the friends of pluralism do their cause no favors by trying to force the day or pretend that it is nearer than it is. We live perfectly happily in a world where there are churches on the street corners and biology textbooks in the study.

For if by religion we mean a faith in a supernatural deity, an invisible man in the sky, who makes absolute rules about human existence, punishes people for breaking them, and then arrives to hand out a newly amended set from time to time in the Middle East—then, no, the truths of Darwinism are not compatible with religion. But few religious poets or thinkers have held that view of God for a very long time.

Ours has been an age of great theological speculation, sublime religious poetry, and profound personal revelation. If by religion we mean belief in a force in the universe that is mysterious and remote, which nonetheless seems to shine inside us with a power that is inexplicable but real to all those who witness it, and gives meaning and serenity to life—then yes, religion is completely compatible with Darwinism, which is a claim about history, not about everything there is.

And if we mean by religion what most people have actually meant by it since the beginning of religion—an encompassing practice of irrational rituals, which can’t be justified but only experienced, and give order to life and continuity, too—then, yes, of course, religion is compatible with Darwinism. The faiths of George Herbert and Dr. Johnson, of Kierkegaard and W.H. Auden, all have nothing to do with obeying the commands of an invisible man in the sky who intervenes and talks, and everything to do with confronting the chaotic reality of the cosmos and finding order within it.

In this sense, the “epiphenomena” of religion—music, stained glass, meditation exercises, and every other religious product—are the real thing. The imaginative life, in which we make symbols and stories, is not secondary, but primary. When we talk of souls and spirits we are not talking nonsense, any more than we are when we talk of love and courage and faith in an ideal cause.

The fact-value distinction that is so much a part of the modern philosophy of science—the rule that our values are not naturally determined but chosen—is not intended to deprecate the role of values; it is intended to diminish the tyranny of facts. It is a way of saying not that physical truths imply no morality, but that morality is made in the face of mere physical truth.

Religion may be no guarantee of humane conduct; but nor is it a barrier to it. Atheism is no guarantee of humane conduct, either. As Darwin knew, nothing is any guarantee of humane conduct—except an insistence on it.—-

Friday, April 3, 2009

Binghamton Hostage Situation

I want to update everyone on a terrible tragedy occurring right now in Binghamton, NY. There was a hostage situation at the American Civic Association, during a class on citizenship for immigrants, when a gunman with a high powered rifle came in. 13 people are confirmed dead—the gunman may be one of them.

Governor Paterson has came out and made a statement which he ended with “I speak for all of New York when I offer my prayers for the victims and families of this tragedy.” This sort of irresponsible representation of the governor’s constituents is, in my opinion, unacceptable. I am not going to harp on this or draw an undue amount of attention to it, but I do find it bothersome that someone has just spoken for me, implying that my “prayers” are with anyone. I do not pray, I do not believe in the effectiveness or utility of prayer. I find prayer to be self-indulgent and foolish and I am offended that this horrible event has been co-opted as an opportunity to perpetuate spiritual nonsense that says everyone believes. My dismay, my sadness, my terror may be there, my condolences may be there for the family and victims, but certainly not my prayers. I wish that the governor would be more careful with his words in the future.