Stephen Fry being investigated for blasphemy is just the beginning. Around the world blasphemy laws are getting more and more severe…
From The Independent, UK
Islamic states often justify their blasphemy laws by pointing to the existence of those in Europe, calling Europeans hypocrites for advocating for abolition whilst still having their own
He’s one of Britain’s wittiest men but the fact that humanist Stephen Fry is under investigation by police in the Republic of Ireland for blasphemy is beyond a joke.
Fry’s alleged offence two years ago was to give an eloquent restatement of the classic theological argument known as “the problem of evil”: how can an all-loving God be responsible for a world that includes so much suffering, such as “bone cancer in children”, in his words? As one head of RE at a secondary school here in England tweeted, “I use this clip at GCSE & A Level for prob of evil. If RE teachers in Ireland have are they also ‘guilty’ of blasphemy?”
Debate and discussion over powerful and emotive topics like religion and belief are, by their nature, endlessly provocative. They are also vital, and when so many countries still try to use the force of law to shut down these discussions, we all risk intellectual impoverishment.
In England and Wales the blasphemy law was repealed in 2008. In Scotland and Northern Ireland blasphemy laws remain in place, although they have not been used in recent years. Perhaps we might not expect them to be – but then did we expect them to be in Ireland? And, similarly, Denmark this year decided to bring a prosecution under its blasphemy laws for the first time in 46 years.
Other European countries such as Italy, Austria, Poland and Turkey still have laws that are actively in use. In Greece, in 2014, Philippos Loizos was handed a ten-month suspended prison sentence for mocking up a picture of a Greek Orthodox patriarch, Elder Paisios, as a pasta dish. While in Russia, blasphemy laws were notoriously used to sentence the band Pussy Riot to hard labour after they performed in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral. This year they are also being used to prosecute a humanist blogger who filmed himself playing Pokémon Go in a church.
The most serious uses of blasphemy laws around the world are not in Europe, but in Islamic states, 13 of which punish blasphemy by death. These include Mohamed Cheikh Ould M’kheitir in Mauritania, charged with “insulting the prophet” for an article challenging slavery; humanist Ahmadreza Djalali, who worked as a Professor in Brussels but is now sentenced to death in his native Iran; and Saudi Arabia, which just last week sentenced Ahmad Al Shamri to death for “atheism”, while others such as Raif Badawi also sit on death row.
“I certainly do not hate the Church… I do, however, think that they are wasting a lot of time, effort, and money on nonsense.”
The Clergy Project is an online support group that exists for former religious professionals who have found a better fit for their spiritual selves with Atheism. Formed in 2011, the group aims to help ex-clergy deal with the inevitable ethical and philosophical questions that arise when leaving a faith, as well as help them adapt to life away from the spiritual world.
We spoke to several former clergy involved in The Clergy Project about how and why they abandoned their faith.
Shlomo Levin, former Rabbi
As a rabbi, you are responsible for and called upon to answer questions. These questions range from the more profound, like, “Rabbi, what happens after we die?” to the very mundane, “Rabbi, is this yogurt kosher?” As I became older, I began to feel much less confident in my ability to know the answers to all of these questions. I found it very burdensome to have to have all the answers. People will ask after a funeral, “Can this person still hear me?” And I just have no idea. I couldn’t say, “I don’t know.” It really weighed on my conscious to give people answers that I knew could be hurtful to them. I think a lot of people find Orthodox Judaism a source of joy. I’m all for that, if that’s what they want. But at times, it was clearly not. Some people were just made to suffer.
I found it very liberating to not have belief. It’s hard to live knowing that there’s a God in the sky that will punish you if you don’t do a certain ritual at a certain time in a certain way. It’s a lot easier this way. I don’t miss it at all.
From The Freethinker, UK
IN last week’s bulletin I reported on the death of Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag for the LGBT community.
I followed that up by dedicating my Easter column in the Costa Blanca‘s Round Town News to Baker – and within hours of the paper hitting the streets the editor, Sam Holliday, received a furious email from a reader. Without identifying the name or gender of the complainant, she asked me if I would care to respond to the angry Christian, who wrote:
“Firstly, I must state that I usually enjoy reading your newspaper. However, this week I find that I must comment upon your column writer Barry Duke’s latest rant. Please note that I am writing this in the most polite fashion I can muster and am biting my tongue as I type!
“We are all entitled to our own opinions, of course. Barry Dukes (sic) is allowed to express his freely in your paper. However, this does NOT give him the right to insult the MANY Christians who read such publications. Yes, there are quite a lot of us out there; probably many more than Barry thinks.
“I realise that he was irritated by the comments of Bryan Fischer but he could have expressed this annoyance without resorting to calling God ‘mythical’. For Christians the world over God is very real indeed.
“For the record, I am not anti-gay and have a number of gay friends but this has gone beyond the pale. WHY did the Editor allow this to be published? Respect for people should work both ways. Mr Dukes (sic) makes enough fuss about gay rights. How about some courtesy being shown to those of Christian faith?
“An apology would be most welcome.”
I immediately fired back this response:
On this date in 1941, evolutionary biologist and freethought champion Richard Dawkins was born in Nairobi. His father had moved to Kenya from England during the Second World War to join the Allied Forces and the family returned to England in 1949. Dawkins graduated from Oxford in 1962, earned his doctorate, became assistant professor of zoology at the University of California at Berkeley 1967-1969 and a fellow of New College in 1970.
The Selfish Gene, his first book, published in 1976, became an international bestseller. It and the award-winning Blind Watchmaker were translated into all major languages. His other books include The Extended Phenotype (1982), River Out of Eden (1995), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), Unweaving the Rainbow (1998) and A Devil’s Chaplain (2003). His 2006 iconoclastic book, The God Delusion, which he wrote with the public hope of turning believing readers into atheists, became a bestseller in both the UK and the U.S.
Dawkins has held the Charles Simonyi Chair of Public Understanding of Science since 1995, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997. He is married to actress and artist Lalla Ward, who has illustrated several of his books and other works.
Dawkins has advanced the concept of cultural inheritance or “memes,” also described as “viruses of the mind,” a category into which he places religious belief. He has also advanced the “replicator concept” of evolution.
A passionate atheist, Dawkins has coined the memorable term “faith-heads” to describe certain religionists. Since his remarks in The Guardian (Feb, 6, 1999): “I’m like a pit bull terrier being released into the ring, as a spectator sport, to attack religious people . . .,” Dawkins is now affectionately known as “Darwin’s pit bull.”
Dawkins, a vice president of the British Humanist Association, was named Humanist of the Year in 1999. He is the 1997 winner of the International Cosmos Prize, and received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001. His column for The Observer (“Children Must Choose Their own Beliefs,” Dec. 30, 2001) pointed out: “We deliberately set up, and massively subsidise, segregated faith schools. As if it were not enough that we fasten belief-labels on babies at birth, those badges of mental apartheid are now reinforced and refreshed. In their separate schools, children are separately taught mutually incompatible beliefs.”
Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he eloquently warned in a Guardian column, “Religion’s Misguided Missiles” (Sept. 15, 2001): “To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used.”
See also https://www.wired.com/2017/03/evolution-slower-looks-faster-think/
Freethinker: ‘The Most Hated Woman in America’ — Melissa Leo on the Murder of Atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair…
From The Daily Beast
Oscar-winner Melissa Leo stars as Murray O’Hair in the story so wild—and yet, so true—that it’s astounding that it hasn’t been turned into a film before.
In 1960, in the midst of a career as a social worker and civil rights activist, Murray O’Hair filed a landmark lawsuit against the Baltimore City Public School System on behalf of her older son, William, arguing that it was unconstitutional to force him to participate in Bible readings while attending public school. The lawsuit eventually reached the Supreme Court in 1963, with an 8-1 ruling in her favor.
She would later move to Austin, Texas, where her on-screen portrayer, Leo, is sitting down with The Daily Beast after the film’s SXSW festival premiere.
On this date in 1952, science fiction/comedy writer Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge, England. He was educated at Brentwood School, Essex, and St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a BA in 1974, and later earned his Master’s in English literature.
Adams worked as a writer and producer in radio and television. In 1978, “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” ran as a series on BBC Radio, and was published as a novel in 1979. Fourteen million copies of the cult scifi novel have sold worldwide, followed by sequels. The satiric novel chronicles the adventures of an alien, Ford Prefect, and his human companion, Arthur Dent, as they travel the universe looking for the meaning of life after the earth’s destruction. Adams became the youngest author to be awarded the Golden Pan in 1984.
Adams was also an Internet pioneer. He married Jane Belson in 1991 and they had a daughter, Polly, in 1994. He was at work on a screenplay for Hitch Hiker when he died unexpectedly at age 49 of a heart attack. Adams called himself a “committed Christian” as a teenager, who began to rethink his beliefs at age 18 after listening to the nonsense of a street preacher. He credited books by his friend, Richard Dawkins, including The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, for helping to cement his views on religion.
In one of his speeches, Dawkins quotes Adams, who said: “Now, the invention of the scientific method is, I’m sure we’ll all agree, the most powerful intellectual idea, the most powerful framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked. If it withstands the attack then it lives to fight another day and if it doesn’t withstand the attack then down it goes. Religion doesn’t seem to work like that. It has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever.” (“Emperor Has No Clothes” Award acceptance speech, reprinted in Freethought Today, October 2001.)
In The Salmon of Doubt, a compilation of Adams’ writings published posthumously in 2002, Adams wrote of religion: “But it does mystify me that otherwise intelligent people take it seriously.” D. 2001.
“If you describe yourself as ‘Atheist,’ some people will say, ‘Don’t you mean “Agnostic’?” ‘ I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god—in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously. It’s funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly. In England we seem to have drifted from vague wishy-washy Anglicanism to vague wishy-washy Agnosticism—both of which I think betoken a desire not to have to think about things too much.”
—Douglas Adams, interview, American Atheist (Winter 1998-99)
From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic
When I became convinced that the Universe is natural – that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.
The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave.
There was for me no master in all the wide world – not even in infinite space. I was free – free to think, to express my thoughts – free to live to my own ideal – free to live for myself and those I loved – free to use all my faculties, all my senses – free to spread imagination’s wings – free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope – free to judge and determine for myself – free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past – free from popes and priests – free from all the “called” and “set apart” – free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies – free from the fear of eternal pain – free from the winged monsters of the night – free from devils, ghosts and gods.
For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought – no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings – no chains for my limbs – no lashes for my back – no fires for my flesh – no master’s frown or threat – no following another’s steps – no need to bow, to cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.
And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain – for the freedom of labor and thought – to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains – to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs – to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn – to those by fire consumed – to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men.
And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.
The Genesis of Misogyny
From Church and State, UK
It all started with Eve. Or did it?
The Alphabet Of Ben-Sira, a Judaic document derived from a Talmudic script, asserts that Lilith, not Eve, was Adam’s wife. Since it comes to us through the same mythological lineage as the Bible itself, the historical veracity of The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is not what matters here. What does matter is that this ancient text gives us a female who makes Germaine Greer look like Mother Teresa.
Unlike her successor, Eve, Lilith was not made from Adam’s rib. She was made from clay in exactly the same way as her husband was. Her job description, as given to her by God, was to submit to Adam and be “under him”. But she had no sooner morphed into existence when she told God “I will not be below; I will not lie beneath him – I am as him; made too from clay.” God, not used to being spoken to like this, became angry. Lilith, however, didn’t give a toss; she just flew away and joined a hoard of screaming female demons.
And that’s how we have Feminists.
But Lilith came back for revenge, as you do. She verbally assaulted the angels that God sent to return her to Adam and generally threatened screeching mayhem on any male, or Deity for that matter, who came within screeching distance. She was never incorporated into the bible as a real human being; instead she is listed among abominable animals and evil spirits in the Old Testament. No surprise there, then.
It is said by contemporary scholars that The Alphabet of Ben-Sira was a satirical commentary, all well and good. But what is wonderful about the story of Lilith is the fact that the ancient satirist who wrote her into being did so because he was smart enough to recognise that the secondary/submissive role assigned to women by God was a crock of shit.
On this date in 1965, humorist and entrepreneur Scott Dikkers was born in Minneapolis. While attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he started drawing a comic strip called Jim’s Journal that gained a small measure of local notoriety. He parlayed that into an unpaid spot on the staff of The Onion, a student humor newspaper started in 1988. The next year, he and Peter Haise bought the paper and started expanding it in terms of content and circulation beyond Madison. The Onion’s small staff (described in one story as a “lone Jew surrounded by a collection of lapsed Lutherans and lapsed Catholics”) focused on making the mundane both irreverent and hilarious. A fair amount of that irreverence lands on religion’s shoulders. “Christians Growing Impatient for Third Coming of Christ” was the headline on one story. There are many, many others. Dikkers, described as reclusive and somewhat of a loner, was, according to one story, married for a time, something that no one on the staff reportedly knew.
The Onion went online in 1996, which vastly increased its audience and renown. Dikkers co-wrote and edited The Onion’s first original book, Our Dumb Century, a best-selling spoof of recent history through Onion front pages, and Our Dumb World, a world atlas parody. In the mid-2000s, he spearheaded “The Onion News Network” web series, which won a Peabody Award in 2008 for its “ersatz news that has a worrisome ring of truth.” That same year he addressed the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s national convention in Chicago.
Dikkers was also included on Time magazine’s list of the Top 50 “Cyber Elite” along with Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, George Lucas and others. Headquarters moved to New York City in 2000-01 and to Chicago in 2012. The enterprise had been sold in 2003 to David Schafer. Dikkers remained as editor-in-chief from 2005–08 and is current vice president for creative development. Print publication ended in 2013. He has written more than 20 humor books and developed the “Writing with The Onion” program at the Second City Training Center in Chicago.
“See, atheists and agnostics aren’t scary. Listen to their laughter! It’s a joyous sound, like the laughter of innocent children. You can trust us!
Furthermore, I want to say to the world, you need us. As I hope I’ve demonstrated here, atheists are fun. We’re fun to be with. We like playing make believe as much as the next guy, but we know the difference between fantasy and reality. And our crucial role in society is to remind everyone else of the cold, hard facts.”
—Speech, FFRF national convention, Oct. 12, 2008
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce the successful settlement of a longstanding federal lawsuit challenging a 6-foot Ten Commandments monument in front of a Pennsylvania public high school.
FFRF, a national state/church watchdog, along with a student and parent, Marie Schaub, filed suit in September 2012. Schaub, an atheist, ultimately withdrew her daughter from Valley High School in the New Kensington-Arnold School District because of the monument.
U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry dismissed the New Kensington challenge in July 2015, ruling that Schaub and her child did not have frequent enough contact with the decalog monolith, which meant that they did not have standing to sue over the violation.
In August 2016, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Schaub’s legal right to challenge the bible monument. The three- judge panel unanimously found that Schaub’s removal of her daughter from the school due to the presence of the monument, and prior contact with it, established their clear injury to sue.
That ruling set in motion negotiations with the school district, which has now agreed to remove the Ten Commandments monument within 30 days. The district’s insurer will pay attorneys’ fees of $163,500, of which more than $40,000 will go to FFRF for its attorney fees as well as reimbursement for its costs.
“It’s been a drawn-out fight but my family and I are grateful to everyone who has helped us finally right a wrong that was committed so long ago,” says Schaub, who received FFRF’s Atheist in a Foxhole Courage Award at its annual convention last fall in Pittsburgh. “I hope this settlement serves as a lesson and a reminder that the separation of state and church is especially important when in comes to our kids in public schools. The removal of this religious monument will provide a more welcoming environment that will promote equality and neutrality.”
FFRF is gratified that reason and our secular Constitution have prevailed.
“The First Commandment alone is reason why public schools may not endorse the Commandments,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Students in our public schools are free to have any god they like, as many gods as they like — or none at all! In America, we live under the First Amendment, not the First Commandment.”
In August 2015, McVerry had ruled in favor of FFRF’s challenge of a similar marker in front of the a junior high school in Connellsville, Pa. That bible monument was removed in October 2015.
Representing FFRF is local attorney Marcus B. Schneider, with FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott serving as co-counsel.
FFRF has 27,000 nonreligious members nationwide.
On this date in 1958, Pulitzer Prize-winning science columnist for The New York Times Natalie Angier was born in New York City to a Jewish mother and a father with a Christian Science background. She attended the University of Michigan for two years, then transferred to Barnard College, where she studied English, physics and astronomy, and graduated with high honors.
At 22, she became a founding staff reporter for the science magazine Discover. Throughout the 1980s, Angier worked as a senior science writer for Time Magazine, as an editor for the women’s business magazine Savvy, and as a professor of journalism in a graduate program at New York University. She began writing for The New York Times in 1990 and won a Pulitzer after just ten months on the job for a series of ten feature science articles.
Her hit books include Natural Obsessions (1988), about the world of cancer research, The Beauty of the Beastly (1995), and the National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller, Woman: An Intimate Geography (1999), which has sold over 200,000 copies. Woman won a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood, was nominated for the Samuel Johnson Award (Britain’s largest nonfiction literary prize), and was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, People magazine, National Public Radio, amazon.com, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and the New York Public Library. In 2002, she edited The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and in 2010 The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science. Richard Dawkins describes The Canon as “an intoxicating cocktail of fine science writing,” and Barbara Ehrenreich says of it, “Finally, Nature has a found a biographer who’s up to the task.” Angier received the American Association for the Advancement of Science prize for excellence in science journalism, among many awards and honors. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, publications and anthologies. She began serving a five-year term as the Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University in 2007, previously filled by Oliver Sacks, Toni Morrison, Jane Goodall, and others who were “distinguished contributors to cultural achievement.”
Angier, a self-proclaimed “lonely atheist,” was a guest on Freethought Radio in 2006. In The New York Times Sunday Magazine (Jan. 14, 2001), Angiers outed herself as an atheist in the article, “Confessions of a Lonely Atheist”: “I’m an Atheist. I don’t believe in God, Gods, Godlets or any sort of higher power beyond the universe itself, which seems quite high and powerful enough to me. I don’t believe in life after death, channeled chat rooms with the dead, reincarnation, telekinesis or any miracles but the miracle of life and consciousness, which again strike me as miracles in nearly obscene abundance . . . I’m convinced that the world as we see it was shaped by the again genuinely miraculous, let’s even say transcendent, hand of evolution through natural selection.” She continued, “I may not believe in life after death, but what a gift it is to be alive now.” Angier received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the 2003 national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She is married to and has a daughter with Rick Weiss, a science reporter for the Washington Post.
“Sure, I’m a soapbox atheist. But she [my daughter] doesn’t have to take my word for anything. All she has to do is look around her, every day, to find the bible she needs—in the sky, sun, moon, Mars, leaves, lady bugs, stink bugs, possums, tadpoles, cardinals, the wonderful predatory praying mantises that have gotten really big and fat this year on all the insects this rainy year has brought. Life needs no introduction, explanation or excuse. Life is bigger than myth—except in California.”
—Natalie Angier, during her acceptance speech of the Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the national FFRF convention in 2003
I had a GM once who used random objects when he didn’t have a miniature that was the right size or whatever. One day we’re fighting something during a game and he gets out this gigantic stuffed six-sider that’s the size of a basketball and sets it down without a word in front of our tiny little 1″ minis. We were totally O.O (Dagny Mol, CC.)
Hi! I’ve noticed an uptick in new folks lately and have gotten some emails asking me why I call my blog what I do, so I thought that today–the most chocolate-y day of the year, so to speak–was a good day to bring everyone up to speed. I haven’t written about it in a long time and I’ve learned a lot since then. So today I want to show you what “rolling to disbelieve is” and what it feels like to make your roll at last.
I was Christian for the first half of my life, deconverting in my 20s a couple years after graduating from college. And oh boy was I Christian. My entire Christian “walk” (that’s Christianese for someone’s journey through the religion to, I suppose, enlightenment) seemed like one long search for this gauzy notion of TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ that I was sure must exist out there somewhere.
Somewhere, if I searched hard enough, I’d find a group that was practicing the ideals of Jesus the way Christians everywhere should be, and I’d finally be okay. Looking back it’s both laughable and tearjerking to think of how anguished I was over the misery, dysfunction, and hypocrisy I saw around me, and of how hard I worked to find that group. I kept going from group to group trying to find the one that was doing Christianity right–and in the process, spiraled down into worse and worse groups and even almost ended up in Waco right around when that David Koresh stuff was going down (with a different and arguably even worse cult, though).
It’s another week and another busy period for us here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Unlike the weeks before, this week the lion’s share of our time and energy was not spent focusing on the Trump administration. Instead, we were active in a number of different directions.
A lot of local activity
So, we did what we’ve done in regular times: We kept an eye on local and state-level institutions for violations of state/church separation. We warned a South Carolina school district about a reading of an overtly Christian book to an entire elementary school. (We’ve put up some of the images from the book for you to look at.)
We’re having to refight another local-level battle, though. A Minnesota city is backtracking on its removal of a cross from a public veterans park. The Belle Plaine City Council seemingly caved in to immense local religious pressure and is permitting the cross to be put back up. We’ve told the city council members that if this is done, FFRF will propose for the park a memorial of its own: to atheists in foxholes. Reply awaited.
Another local-level legal battle seems to be going well for us so far. In a case where FFRF filed an amicus brief, a Florida judge says a prayer lawsuit against a high school athletic league should be tossed out.
From Freedom From Religion Foundation
On February 11, 1847, Thomas Alva Edison was born in Ohio, the youngest of seven. The inventor – famed for reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire before the age of ten, and for vowing at age 12 to read the entire contents of the Detroit Public Library – was largely self-taught.
Supporting himself at a very early age, Edison sold newspapers, worked for railroad companies and became a telegraph operator. He invented the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and improved the telegraph and telephone, becoming a highly successful businessman and manufacturer.
Edison, who held more than 1,300 US and foreign patents, famously noted: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Edison, who died in 1931, told The New York Times in an interview (June 8, 1915 edition): “I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill.”
A lifelong freethinker, one of his oft-repeated lines (for which we could find only secondary sources) is: “So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake. . . . Religion is all bunk.”
In an interview with The New York Times (October 2, 1910) Edison said: “I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul … I am an aggregate of cells, as, for instance, New York City is an aggregate of individuals. Will New York City go to heaven? …. No; nature made us – nature did it all – not the gods of the religions.”
From Church and State, UK
Excerpted from Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness by James A. Haught. Copyright © James A. Haught, 2002. All rights reserved.
Chapter 15: Enlightenment
During the 1700s, religion’s throttlehold upon Europe slowly loosened. Religious killing still occurred, but with decreasing frequency. Sporadic examples:
In 1723, the bishop of Gdansk, Poland, demanded the expulsion of Jews. The city council declined, but the bishop’s exhortations roused a mob that invaded the ghetto and beat the residents to death.
Women still were burned occasionally as witches-in Scotland in 1722, in Germany in 1749, in Switzerland in 1782.
From 1702 to 1710, Louis XIV’s efforts to stamp out Protestantism caused Camisards of southern France to burn Catholic churches and kill priests. Catholic troops were sent in, slaughtering whole villages. Camisard leaders were executed.
The Inquisition was still alive, chiefly in Spain, but its horrors were few (perhaps because Spain had hardly any secret Jews, Muslims, or Protestants left to kill).
In 1715, Protestants were violently persecuted in the Rhineland Palatinate, and in 1732, Archbishop Firmian forcibly expelled 20,000 Protestants from Salzburg province.
Christians still accused Jews of stealing holy wafers and stabbing them to crucify Jesus again. An execution for host-nailing happened in Nancy, France, in 1761. Christians still accused Jews of sacrificing Gentile children, but massacres were rare. A late exception was the killing of 128 Jews at Bucharest in 1801 after Orthodox priests raised the blood libel.
Why did church atrocities recede in the West? Because a new social climate was spreading—the Age of Reason, the Enlightenment. Philosopher Hegel called it “the Age of Intelligence.” The growth of scientific thinking and open discourse brought an awakening of human rights: a sense that people should be allowed to hold differing beliefs without risking death.
On this date in 1737, Thomas Paine was born in England. Paine wrote “Common Sense” in 1776, fanning the flames of the American Revolution. On the cutting edge of revolution, Paine is best known for his political writings. No better index to Paine’s character can be found than his reply to Franklin’s remark, “Where liberty is, there is my country.” “Where liberty is not,” said Paine, “there is mine.” Without the pen of Paine, said one contemporary, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.
A radical freethinker in the 18th century mode of deism, Paine wrote the classic criticism of the bible, The Age of Reason (1792), completing the second volume under arduous conditions of imprisonment in France. “I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy. I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.”
Organized religion was “set up to terrify and enslave” and to “monopolize power and profit.” Paine repudiated the divine origin of Christianity on grounds that it was too “absurd for belief, too impossible to convince and too inconsistent to practice.” He was vilified for his unabashed analysis of the bible when he returned to America in 1802. Even a century after his death, Theodore Roosevelt referred to Paine, the man who named the United States of America, as “a filthy little atheist.” Notable quotes: “. . . my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” – Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man. D. 1809.
“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize.” —Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason (1792)
From The Truth Seeker
In the 1880s, the world’s freethinkers adopted Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno as one of their martyrs. A victim of the Roman Inquisition, Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 for his heretical views. In an effort to honor Bruno, freethinkers mounted a campaign—spearheaded in America by The Truth Seeker—to build a monument in Rome near the Vatican. In 1889, the Giordano Bruno monument was unveiled amidst frenetic protest by the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican vehemently opposed any monument honoring Bruno, especially one erected on the spot where they burned the freethought martyr. Pope Leo called the effort a “sacrilegious deed.”
It was the Inquisition of Venice, in Italy, that brought Giordano Bruno, astronomer, philosopher, and Freethinker, to the stake. Bruno (born in 1548) chose the church as what he supposed was the least of three evils, the two others being the law and the army. He found that his choice was the worst he could have made.
In the pursuit of his studies Bruno stumbled against the dogmas of the Trinity, Transubstantiation, and the Virgin Birth. He discussed these subjects with his brother monks of the convent of St. Domenico Maggiore, Naples. Reaching heterodox conclusions, he was proceeded against by the maser of the novices. Again, when in full orders, the father provincial fell upon him with accusations of heretical tendencies, and realizing the grave danger of a second process against a relapsed heretic, he fled from Naples and took the road to Rome. Here he learned that the accusation would soon follow him, and made his way to Genoa. He found no place to rest. His wanderings led him to Geneva, the home of Calvinism, where he discovered shortly that Protestantism was as narrow as Romanism. “The two churches,” as Bartholmess says, “were governed by the same principle of jurisdiction – the criminality of heresies. Whoever believed wrongly, that is to say, otherwise than the Holy Office or the Venerable Consistory, believed nothing; and he who believed not committed the crime of treason to God, and deserved capital punishment. Persecution hence became a sacred duty, an act agreeable to God. The greater its intolerance, the greater its value.”
In just 1 month, 13 pastors were arrested for sexual assault & rape. Another was arrested for selling 68 babies, another for a DUI & a priest is in trouble for orgies & pimping out women. All the while, religious GOP lawmakers in 6 states filed anti-trans bathroom bills to “protect women and kids.”
Former children’s pastor arrested in Alabama for the second time for sexual abuse of a child under 12. 1.
Georgia youth minister arrested for having sex with a 14 year old 2.
Pastor in Charlotte charged with 9 armed robberies. 3.
Pastor in California arrested for sexually assaulting a 12 year old. 4.
Tennessee worship leader charged with exploitation of a minor. 5.
Minnesota pastor beat a boy for “testing God.” 6.
Pastor in Jamaica arrested after being caught doing some naughty things in his car with a 15 year old. 7.
Wellington Pastor is charged with sexual assault of a minor. 8.
From Irish Times Opinion
Most atheists believe gods exist only as ideas in the minds of humans. Most atheists are open to new evidence that we might be mistaken.
Many people misunderstand the difference between atheism and secularism. Both are forces for good, but for different reasons. Atheism can mean actively believing gods do not exist, or passively not believing gods exist.
Most atheists believe gods exist only as ideas in the minds of humans. Most atheists are open to new evidence that we might be mistaken.
Secularism can mean philosophically focusing on the natural world, or politically separating Church and State. Many religious people support political secularism.
Indeed, Atheist Ireland has a working alliance with Evangelical Alliance Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland to promote a secular education system.
Atheist Ireland believes that reason and science are more reliable ways of understanding reality than are faith and religion, and that morality is a natural process based on evolved attributes such as empathy, compassion, co-operation, reciprocity, fairness, justice and reason.
“Imagine a world where Christian Supremacists plot a theocratic takeover of Washington, with the help of the Vice President. You’ve just crossed over into — 2017 America.”
From Daily Kos
Despite all the hand wringing and hysteria about the upcoming “presidency” of Donald Trump, the plain truth is that the Trump campaign stated in no uncertain terms that Vice President Mike Pence will in fact be in charge of “foreign and domestic affairs.” What will that look like? Again, plainly, Mike Pence is not only the de facto leader of the Republican party, which is no longer the party of conservatism but is now the party of nationalism; but more importantly Mike Pence is at the head of another, far more dangerous Republican group, the “Christian Supremacists;” who are committed to taking over the government of the United States of America. Preposterous, you say? Please read further.
Mike Pence found religion at approximately the same time that he found a way to succeed in politics. When asked about his religious conversion, Pence has stated that listening to a Christian music festival in college called him to Jesus. However, Pence’s appearance on the airwaves and his appearance at Grace Evangelical Church in Indianapolis both took place in the late eighties, early nineties, perhaps coincidentally.
Pence’s start in radio came when he lost a second Congressional race in 1988 and was commiserating in his law office when he got a call from a Rushville, Indiana woman, Sharon Disinger, who made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Disinger wanted Pence to host a talk show on her small radio station in Rush County. Disinger told Pence that his hero, Ronald Reagan got his start in radio; and it goes without saying that Pence had other heros, notably Rush Limbaugh, whose fame on the airwaves Pence openly aspired to.
Pence’s primary hero, however, was evangelist James Dobson. Dobson invited Pence on his radio show on October 5, 2016 and Pence proclaimed that being interviewed by Dobson was, “the greatest honor of my entire life.” Dobson is virulently anti-gay as is Pence. Dobson is the founder of two anti-gay organizations, Focus On The Family and the Family Research Council and through those two groups Dobson proselytizes anti-gay hate doctrines thinly veiled with evangelical and pro-family language. Dobson blamed the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on same-sex marriage, and has also gone on record as stating that same-sex marriage could lead the U.S. into another civil war. Dobson’s political awareness is as astute as Ben Carson’s, if even.
“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived”
On this day in 1920, Isaac Asimov, a self-described “second-generation freethinker” and one of the world’s most prolific authors, was born in Petrovichi, Russia. He moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York, in 1923, and became a naturalized citizen in 1928. Isaac taught himself to read by age five. At age seven, he taught his sister to read.
He sold one of his earliest published short stories, “Nightfall,” in 1941, which was eventually voted the best science-fiction short story ever written, by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Asimov graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor of science degree in 1939, earned his M.A. in 1941 and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1948. He was hired by Boston University’s School of Medicine to teach biochemistry the following year, although he had never studied biochemistry. He wrote a textbook on the subject in 1951, became associate professor of biochemistry in 1955 and professor in 1979, although he stopped teaching in 1958 to devote his life to writing.
I, Robot, (1950), is the title of Asimov’s first collection of short stories (a recent movie was based on one of the stories). Employing the “Asimovian Law of Composition,” which meant writing from nine to five, seven days a week (often closer to 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.), he averaged at least 12 new books a year. Asimov won five Hugos, three Nebula Awards, and his best-known “Foundation” trilogy was given a 1966 Hugo as “Best All-Time Science-Fiction Series.” Nonfiction works by Asimov were typically encyclopedic in range, such as his well-known Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (1968) and Asimov’s Annotated Paradise Lost (1974). He wrote a series of popularizing books on science and history, and even a guide to Shakespeare.
Asimov was an atheist: “I am Jewish in the sense that if an Arab wanted to throw a rock at a Jew, I would qualify as a target as far as he was concerned. However, I do not practice Judaism or any other religion.” (March 17, 1969 letter). Asimov called himself “an orthodox, practicing atheist” (April 29, 1988 letter). Asimov wrote: “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived” (Feb. 22, 1966 letter). He also observed, “I must say that I stand amazed at the highly intelligent people who have taken so much of the Bible so seriously” (Oct. 28, 1966 letter). “Nobody but a dedicated Christian could possibly read the gospels and not see them as a tissue of nonsense” (Nov. 1, 1966 letter). “I would not be satisfied to have my kids choose to be religious without trying to argue them out of it, just as I would not be satisfied to have them decide to smoke regularly or engage in any other practice I considered detrimental to mind or body” (Aug. 22, 1963 letter).
“I am prejudiced against religion because I know the history of religion, and it is the history of human misery and of black crimes” (March 27, 1976 letter). Elected in 1985 as president of the American Humanist Association, Asimov rejected an offer to support “Jewish” humanism: “I want to be a human being, nothing more and nothing less” (June 21, 1985). (All letters cited from Yours, Isaac Asimov, a Lifetime of Letters, edited by Stanley Asimov, 1995). Asimov noted that “it is an excellent sign that the right wing is trembling before a few thousand Humanists. We are weak and yet feared. Let’s give them more cause to fear!”
Upon his death at age 72, he had written more than 470 published books, covering every category in the Dewey Decimal System, fiction and nonfiction. Asimov was married twice, and had a son and daughter. Isaac’s death from heart and kidney failure was a consequence of AIDS contracted from a transfusion of tainted blood during his December 1983 triple-bypass operation. D. 1992.
“Just the force of rational argument in the end cannot be withstood.”
—Isaac Asimov, Winter Solstice Speech before the New Jersey Freedom From Religion Foundation, Dec. 22, 1985
Again we celebrate the victory of Light over Darkness, of the God of day over the hosts of night. Again Samson is victorious over Delilah, and Hercules triumphs once more over Omphale. In the embrace of Isis, Osiris rises from the dead, and the scowling Typhon is defeated once more. Again Apollo, with unerring aim, with his arrow from the quiver of light, destroys the serpent of shadow. This is the festival of Thor, of Baldur and of Prometheus. Again Buddha by a miracle escapes from the tyrant of Madura, Zoroaster foils the King, Bacchus laughs at the rage of Cadmus, and Chrishna eludes the tyrant.
This is the festival of the sun-god, and as such let its observance be universal.
This is the great day of the first religion, the mother of all religions—the worship of the sun.
Sun worship is not only the first, but the most natural and most reasonable of all. And not only the most natural and the most reasonable, but by far the most poetic, the most beautiful.
The sun is the god of benefits, of growth, of life, of warmth, of happiness, of joy. The sun is the all-seeing, the all-pitying, the all-loving.
This bright God knew no hatred, no malice, never sought for revenge.
All evil qualities were in the breast of the God of darkness, of shadow, of night. And so I say again, this is the festival of Light. This is the anniversary of the triumph of the Sun over the hosts of Darkness.
Let us all hope for the triumph of Light—of Right and Reason—for the victory of Fact over Falsehood, of Science over Superstition.
And so hoping, let us celebrate the venerable festival of the Sun.