Freethinkers

Freethinker: Hugh Laurie

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1959, James Hugh Calum Laurie was born in Oxford, England. Laurie attended Eton College, where he competed in rowing, and later attended Cambridge University, where he studied anthropology. At Cambridge, Laurie joined the Footlights, Cambridge’s student comedy society, where he met future collaborators Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry. He graduated in 1981 from Selwyn College, with a degree in anthropology and archaeology.

After graduation, he worked on a variety of comic television projects in Britain. He had a recurring role in the third and fourth seasons of the popular UK sitcom “Blackadder” (1983-1989), and with Stephen Fry wrote and starred in the sketch comedy series “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” (1987-1995). During that time, Laurie also starred opposite Fry in the series “Jeeves and Wooster” (1990-1993), adapted from P.G. Wodehouse‘s novels. (Laurie played the bumbling Bertie Wooster and Fry played the butler, Jeeves.)

Notable screen roles have included “Sense and Sensibility,” screenplay by Emma Thompson (who also starred in it), paired opposite Imogen Stubbs, a frequent co-star (1995). Laurie, whose father was a medical doctor, is perhaps best known for his starring role on the U.S. drama series “House, M.D.” (2004-2012). On “House,” Laurie plays an infectious disease specialist and brilliant diagnostician. In a significant departure from the upper-class British characters Laurie has played throughout most of his career, Dr. House has an American accent.

Laurie and his wife, theater administrator Jo Green, have been married since 1989. They have three children. Laurie lived in Los Angeles for much of the year filming “House,” but his family has remained in London. In 2011, Laurie released an album of Blues music recorded in New Orleans, entitled “Let Them Talk.” Laurie does vocals and piano for the album, collaborating with many famous Blues musicians. Laurie was raised Scottish Presbyterian, and continues to express an affinity for this background, despite now identifying as an atheist. He once told The Times [U.K.], “I admire the music, buildings and ethics of religion, but I come unstuck on the God thing” (March 29, 2008).

James Lipton: Do you share House’s skepticism?

Hugh Laurie: [laughing] I do. Big chunks of it, yes. I’m not a religious man. Again, I think this is connected to my father. My father was religious oddly enough, but I nonetheless I suppose was impressed by [and] enamored of his devotion to medical science. I find I am a fan of science. I believe in science. A humility before the facts. I find that a moving and beautiful thing. And belief in the unknown I find less interesting. I find the known and the knowable interesting enough.

—Hugh Laurie in an interview on “Inside the Actors Studio,” July 31, 2006

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Freethinker: Francis Crick

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1916, Francis Crick was born in Northampton, England. He studied physics at University College, London, earned a B.Sc. in 1937, and began research for a Ph.D., which was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. He served as a scientist for the British Admiralty, which he left in 1947 to study biology. He joined the Medical Research Council Unit in Cavendish Laboratory Cambridge, and obtained a Ph.D. in 1954.

He met James Watson in 1951 and together they proposed the double-helix structure for DNA by 1953. In 1962, he, Watson and Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their long-awaited breakthrough in determining the structure and replication scheme of DNA. Crick taught at various universities, including Harvard, Cambridge and University College, London, and became a non-resident Fellow of Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego. In a book recapping his career, What a Mad Pursuit, Crick writes candidly of his rejection of religion. As a school boy, “I was a skeptic, an agnostic, with a strong inclination toward atheism.” D. 2004.

“I realized early on that it is detailed scientific knowledge which makes certain religious beliefs untenable. A knowledge of the true age of the earth and of the fossil record makes it impossible for any balanced intellect to believe in the literal truth of every part of the Bible in the way that fundamentalists do. And if some of the Bible is manifestly wrong, why should any of the rest of it be accepted automatically? . . . What could be more foolish than to base one’s entire view of life on ideas that, however plausible at the time, now appear to be quite erroneous? And what would be more important than to find our true place in the universe by removing one by one these unfortunate vestiges of earlier beliefs?”

—-Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, 1988

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FREETHINKER: Morgan Freeman

 

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1937, Morgan Freeman was born in Memphis, Tenn. The now-famous actor got his start in drama at age 12, when, as a punishment for teasing a girl in class, he was forced to participate in a drama competition. He was a natural and continued to be involved in theater throughout middle school and high school. Although he loved acting and was very talented, he initially chose to enter the Air Force after school. But after a few years, he realized it wasn’t a good fit and began to pursue acting professionally, first in Los Angeles and then in New York City.

Freethinker: Ron Reagan

 

 

From FFRF

On this day in 1958, Ronald Prescott Reagan (Secret Service code name “Reliant”) was born in Los Angeles to Ronald Wilson Reagan and Nancy Reagan, the future U.S. president and first lady. As liberal as his famous father was conservative, Reagan stopped going to church when he was 12 and has publicly stated he’s an atheist numerous times.

In 2004, he accepted the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award and spoke at the Foundation’s 2009 convention in Seattle. Reagan grew up in Los Angeles and Sacramento, went to Yale University for a semester and then joined the Joffrey Ballet Company as a corps de ballet dancer. He married Dori Palmieri, a clinical psychologist, in 1980. He left Joffrey in 1983 and has since worked as a broadcast and print journalist and television and radio host.

He co-hosted “Connected: Coast to Coast with Ron Reagan and Monica Crowley” on MSNBC, was a special correspondent for ABC’s “20/20” and “Good Morning America” and FOX News’ “Front Page,” as well as hosting the syndicated “Ron Reagan Show” starting in 1991. He’s also done work for E! Entertainment Television, Animal Planet and American Movie Classics and has contributed to Newsweek, The New Yorker, Playboy, Los Angeles Times, Esquire and Interview. “The Ron Reagan Show,” syndicated by Air America Media, went on the air in 2008.

Reagan serves on the Advisory Board of the Creative Coalition, a nonpartisan group founded in 1989 to mobilize entertainers and artists for causes such as First Amendment rights, arts advocacy and public education. Reagan, along with his mother, has been a strong supporter of embryonic stem cell research. “When you’re depriving people, potentially, of lifesaving or life-improving cures or treatments purely for political reasons, I find that to be really shameful.”

In a 2008 interview with The Hill newspaper, he was asked when he started questioning his father’s political beliefs: “Oh, puberty. Probably by age 12. That was when I told [my parents] I would no longer go to church with them because I was an atheist. One thing leads to another. It wasn’t a great leap to then disagree on politics.” Was he upset? “Yeah, but he wasn’t angry. He was a Christian and took it fairly seriously. He was worried that my life would be diminished if I didn’t accept Christ as my savior. We’d argue at the dinner table all the time, but I don’t think he was losing sleep over it.”

During a speech about stem cell research at the Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2004, Reagan voiced his opinion on church/state separation: “. . . It does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.” The New York Times asked him in 2004, in an interview that ran three weeks after his father died, if he’d like to be president. “I would be unelectable,” Reagan said. “I’m an atheist. As we all know, that is something people won’t accept.”

“I’m sure there are all sorts of higher powers like electromagnetism and gravity, and things like that. But I don’t believe in a deity, no. I see no evidence for that in my life or anywhere else in the universe. Personally, people can believe what they will and they will believe what they want. I find that most deism, and certainly most theisms take a fairly narrow view of the universe, and most people’s views of God or gods seem to be rather impoverished. The universe itself, the physical world that we can perceive with our senses and grasp with our minds, seems to be far more wondrous than most people’s conceptions of a deity.”

—— Ron Reagan, PR.com interview, April 13, 2009

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FREETHINKER: Robert Owen

 

 

From Freedom From Religion Foundation

On this date in 1771, reformer and philanthropist Robert Owen was born in Wales. He became known as “a capitalist who became the first Socialist.”

Owen started work as a clerk at age nine. With help from a sympathetic cloth merchant to whom he was apprenticed, Owen educated himself. Owen was an unbeliever by 14, influenced by Seneca, and his acquaintance with chemist John Dalton and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. By 18, Owen established a small spinning mill in Manchester. He married the daughter of a Glasgow cotton manufacturer, purchasing his father-in-law’s New Lanark mills in Scotland.

Owen set out to put his humanitarian creed into practice, and turned New Lanark into a model community attracting the attention of reformers around the world.

Freethinker: George Will

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1941, one of America’s top conservatives, columnist, journalist and author George Frederick Will was born in Champaign, Ill. Will has a Bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. (1962), a Master’s in politics from Oxford University (1964) and a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University (1968). Will taught political philosophy at Michigan State University and the University of Toronto. He taught at Harvard in 1995 and in 1998. He served on the staff of U.S. Senator Gordon L. Allott (R-Colo.) from 1970-1972.

He edited National Review from 1972 to 1978. Beginning in 1974, Will wrote a twice-weekly column for the Washington Post and by 1976, he was a contributing editor and columnist for Newsweek. He still writes both columns for those publications. He has been a news analyst for ABC since the early 1980s, and a regular panelist of ABC’s “This Week” since 1981.

Will won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977. His Newsweek and newspaper columns have been published in five books, and he has authored books on other subjects such as political philosophy and baseball. His book Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball (1989) was the top national bestseller for over two months. Will has three children from his first marriage with Madeline Marion (divorced 1991). He has been married to Mari Maseng Will since 1991. They have one son together.

George Will: I’m a heathen.
Stephen Colbert: Are you an atheist?
Will: I’m not decisive enough to be an atheist.
Colbert: You’re agnostic?
Will: Yes.

—George Will, interviewed on “The Colbert Report,” June 3, 2008

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Freethinker: Christopher Hitchens

 

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1949, writer and columnist Christopher Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, England. He attended Cambridge and graduated from Oxford in 1970, reading in philosophy, politics and economics. From 1971-1981 he worked as a book reviewer for The Times.

In 1981 he emigrated to the United States. Hitchens wrote “Minority Report,” a column for The Nation, from 1982-2002. He then wrote for Slate, The Daily Mirror, as a contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly and Vanity Fair, and also wrote for Harpers and many other U.S. newspapers and journals.

As a foreign correspondent, he covered events in 60 countries on all five continents. Hitchens wrote a host of books, but is best-known in freethought circles for authoring The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995) and God Is Not Great (2007). His criticisms of Clinton and pro-Iraqi war views made Hitchens increasingly controversial among progressive readership, but he remained a stalwart atheist and iconoclast. In “Papal Power: John Paul II’s other legacy” (Slate.com, April 1, 2005), Hitchens pointed out that the pope “was a part of the cover up and obstruction of justice that allowed the child-rape scandal to continue for so long.” Hitchens became a U.S. citizen in 2007. D. 2011.

“Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life—except religion . . . Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our ‘godly gift’ of reason when we cross their mental thresholds? . . . Atheism strikes me as morally superior, as well as intellectually superior, to religion. Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”

—-Christopher Hitchens, “The Lord and the Intellectuals,” Harper’s (July 1982), cited by James A. Haught in 2,000 Years of Disbelief (1996)

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Freethinker: Emile Zola

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1840, Emile Zola was born in Paris. The novelist pioneered naturalistic writing, believing ugly problems could not be solved as long as they stayed hidden.

As a struggling young writer, Zola supported himself as a clerk. Legend has it he sometimes resorted to trapping birds on his windowsill in order to eat. Zola also moonlighted as a political reporter and critic.

He was fired from a publishing house after an early autobiographical novel created notoriety. His breakthrough novel was Therese Raquin (1867). By the time his book L’Assammoir (“The Drunkard,” 1878) appeared, Zola was France’s most famous writer, yet he was barred his entire life from the Academy. His book Germinal (1885), about conditions in a coal mine leading to a strike, was denounced by the rightwing. Nana (1880) examined sexual exploitation.

Zola’s most enduring work is his open letter “J’Accuse,” about the Dreyfus case. He campaigned with Clemenceau to free the the French Jewish army officer falsely accused of spying. Zola was sentenced to imprisonment for writing “J’Accuse” in 1898, escaping to England until he could safely return after Dreyfus’ name had been cleared.

Zola, who was baptized Catholic, was a notable critic of the Roman Catholic Church (and vice versa). The Church particularly condemned his books Lourdes, Rome, and Paris (1894-98). The agnostic was an honorary associate of the British Press Association in England. D. 1902.

“When truth is buried underground it grows, it chokes, it gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out, it blows up everything with it.

The truth is on the march, and nothing shall stop it.”

—-Emile Zola, “J’Accuse!” L’Aurore, Jan. 13, 1898

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Freethinker: Christian Logic…

 


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Thomas Paine born on this day in 1737

 

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From FFRF

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)
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Church and State: A Secular State is best for religious and atheist citizens…

 

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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.

Respecting rights

Sam Harris: Missing Hitch

 

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It has been five years, my friend.

Five short years since you taught us how to die with wisdom and wit. And five long ones, wherein the world taught us how deeply we would miss you.

Syria. Safe spaces. President Trump.

What would you have made of these horrors?

More times than I can count, strangers have come forward to say, “I miss Hitch.” Their words are always uttered in protest over some new crime against reason or good taste. They are spoken after a bully passes by, smirking and unchallenged, whether on the Left or the Right. They have become a mantra of sorts, intoned without any hope of effect, in the face of dangerous banalities or lies. Often, I hear in them a note of personal reproach. Sometimes it’s intended.

You are not doing your part.

You don’t speak or write clearly enough.

You are wrong and do not know it—and it matters.

There has been so much to say, and no one to say it in your place.

I, too, miss Hitch.

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Freethinker: Lawrence Lader Born Today In 1919…

 

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From Freedom From Religion

On this date in 1919, Lawrence Lader was born in New York, N.Y. He graduated from Harvard University in 1941 and later served during World War II. Lader was a writer and journalist who worked for Reader’s Digest and The New Republic, and wrote many books about abortion rights. His 1966 book, Abortion, was the first major book published about the then-taboo subject. It was influential in the Roe v. Wade decision: the Supreme Court cited Abortion numerous times in its decision.

Lader strongly supported abortion rights, co-founding the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, later changed to the National Abortion Rights Action League (now NARAL Pro-Choice America). Lader’s other titles include The Margaret Sanger Story and the Fight for Birth Control (1955) and Bold Brahmins: New England’s War Against Slavery, 1831-63 (1973). He and his wife, Joan Summers Lader, had a daughter, Wendy.

According to Anne Nicol Gaylor, co-founder of FFRF who served with Lader on the NARAL Board of Directors, Lader was a freethinker. In 1987, Lader wrote the book Politics, Power, and the Church: The Catholic Crisis and Its Challenge to American Pluralism, which criticized the influence of the Catholic church. Lader wrote, “The Catholic hierarchy still rejects pluralism when many of its moral beliefs and dogma are in dispute. Through legislation on divorce, school prayer, abortion, and a host of issues, it has sought to legalize its moral codes.”

He supported the separation of church and state, stating: “Catholic power, allied with Fundamentalism, has threatened the American tenet of church-state separation and shaken the fragile balance of our pluralistic society.” Lader was awarded FFRF’s Freethought Pioneer Award in 1989 for his 1988–1989 lawsuit against the Catholic Church, which asked for the church’s tax-exempt status to be removed because of its political lobbying. The lawsuit was lost on standing. Lader died of colon cancer. D. 2006

“[The Catholic church] remains rooted in the past, an autocratic structure through which the pope and bishops make all decisions, and their constituents follow them without question.”

—Lawrence Lader, Politics, Power, and the Church, 1987.

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Sunday Song: Get Down On Your Knees Dear Father

 

Thanks to Bruce

To all those who suffered at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.

All dressed up like a Christmas tree
With velvet lace and gold
They took us to their sacred house
And we did what we were told
They filled up our heads with stories
And told us that we could be saved
If we sang and praised their hero
But he never showed his face

They warned us to watch out for Satan
Who’d be waiting there to capture our souls
If we didn’t heed all of their wishes
He’d drag us down through that hole
We’d burn there and scream forever
And our cries they would never be heard
Yes the little innocence of children
Would accept the liar’s word

Get down on your knees dear father
And beg now forgiveness from me
Show me that you’re truly sorry
For the person I couldn’t be
Show me some tears now of sorrow
Show me a face that is real
My innocence and lonely existence
Was never left for you to steal

They’ll take away all of your treasures
They’ll rob you of all of your dreams
Their cruelty hurts and will leave you
With scars that can never be seen
And we are all left here to suffer
With the heartache of struggle and strife
And our tears they’ll never dry ‘em
They follow us on through life

Get down on your knees dear sister
And beg now forgiveness from me
For the cruelty towards all those children
And the pain that you’ll never see
The mothers that lost all their babies
And never would see them again
The cries from their beds
Still remain in their heads
And slowly it drives them insane

Grab your bags with your souvenirs
Your faking your gold your chandeliers
Take all your sermons and all of your songs
Your won’t be back no more
Take your church and your holy shake
Your evil deeds from where you came
Your candles are melted and no one cares
You won’t be back no more
You won’t be back no more
You won’t be back no more
~~

Sunday Song: Got My Plastic Jesus

 

Photo by Joseph Novak. http://www.flickr.com/photos/josephleenovak/671972189/

 

Thanks to Bruce

I don’t care if it
Rains or freezes
As long as I’ve got my
Plastic Jesus
Ridin’ on the dashboard
Of my car

Through my trials
And tribulations
And my travels
Through the nation
With my plastic Jesus
I’ll go far

Ridin’ down the thoroughfare
With a nose up in the air
A wreck may be ahead
But he don’t mind

Trouble comin’
He don’t see
He just keeps his eye on me
And any other thing that lies behind

With my plastic Jesus
Goodbye and I’ll go far
I said with my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car

When I’m in a traffic jam
He don’t care if I say damn
I can let all my curses roll

‘Cos Jesus’ plastic doesn’t hear
‘Cos he has a plastic ear
The man who invented plastic
Saved my soul

With my plastic Jesus
Goodbye and I’ll go far
I said with my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car

An if I weave around at night
Policemen think I’m very tight
They never find my bottle
Though they ask

‘Cos plastic Jesus shelters me
For his head comes off you see
He’s hollow and I use him like a flask

Woa Woa Woa

Save me

I don’t care if it’s dark or scary
Long as I got magnetic Mary
Ridin’ on the dashboard of my car

I feel that I’m protected amply
I’ve got the love of the whole damn family
Ridin’ on the dashboard of my car

With my plastic Jesus
I said goodbye
And I’ll go far

And I said with my plastic Jesus
I said sittin’ on the dashboard of my car

When I’m goin’ fornicatin’
I’ve got my ceramic Satan
Sittin’ on the dashboard of my car
Women know I’m on the level
Thanks to the wide-eyed stoneware devil
Sneerin’ from the dashboard of my car

j2

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Why Blasphemy and Satire Cripples Organized Religion…

 

From Adi Chowdhury
Bangladeshi Humanist

“To appreciate satire, sometimes you need to lay a whole foundation of acceptance of criticism by others. And being at peace with being put on the spot and being responsible for your actions. Sadly, many of these elements are not present in that part of the world. And this is why satire could be viewed as an insult, or a direct attack.” –Basssem Youssef, Egyptian satirist

Organized religion has not shied away from voicing its vehement resentment of “blasphemy.” (Or, more aptly, organized religion has not shied away from ending the lives of those who commit “blasphemy”.) It is not altogether surprising to note this, in fact–authoritarian, oppressive forces have never exactly appreciated criticism against itself. Critics must be decimated, their mindsets lead them to believe. Blasphemy is treason. 

I’m fond of placing the word blasphemy in quotation marks (like “blasphemy”) since the act of “blaspheming” entails that the person has committed some kind of a crime. And what crime has he or she committed? Criticizing religion. I find that laughable. I find it laughable that simply criticizing religion deservedly earns you death threats, or death itself. I find it laughable that organized religion has mangled the concept of skepticism and curiosity to make it seem like a “sinful” act. I find it laughable that an all-powerful deity would ever be offended  or disgraced or even intimidated by a mere human criticizing His holy book. I find it laughable that a god, if he really is as wise as he professes himself to be, will prefer us to blindly submit to him and believe every claim he makes on just the basis of faith, rather than analytically evaluating the word of God and using the sense of logic that He claims to have given us. Established religion spurs us to appreciate and use the wonderful gifts and abilities granted by God…except for the sense of reason and skepticism. No, when it comes to God, always suppress logic. Never doubt. Always believe.

Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian satirist and television show host, is featured in the Big Think video above, expressing his understanding of why satire and criticism deals stunning blows to authoritative, oppressive governments and forces in power. Here’s a well-put excerpt from his eloquent and heartfelt speech:

“…Fear is an incredible mover of the masses. It brainwashes people. It makes people accept and even vote or something that’s against their own personal interests totally out of fear. And speaking about that particular point, it is the same reason why fascisms have a very poor sense of humor because when you have satire you’re not afraid anymore. They don’t want you thinking – they don’t want you to think and laugh, they want you to be in constant state of fear. If you’re laughing at them you’re basically laughing at their brainwashing techniques, at their use of fear and it’s not effective anymore, but if they don’t want that.”

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Bassem Youssef, award-winning satirist

Though Basssem Youssef in this video is elucidating his thoughts on fascist governmental systems rather than organized religion, chilling parallels between the two are hard to miss. Both the latter and the former have amassed notoriety due to their intolerance of dissenters. Both have suppressed the sense of skepticism and preached blind submission. Neither are known for hosting civil discussion and dialogue pertaining to its policies. Rather, the practice of suppressing doubt and promulgating the message of just believe has become synonymous with fascism—as well as the authoritarian nature of organized religion and evangelism.

Youssef, who himself was persecuted in his nation for his so-called “criticism of Islam” (although he himself is a Muslim) and satirical portrayal of the government, explains this issue far better than any writer on this blog can. Watch this enlightening video about why exactly fascist, oppressive forces are so intimidated by satire and “blasphemy.”
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Richard Dawkins Reason Rally 2016 Speech…

 

Unable to attend, Richard Dawkins sent this video…

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Freethinkers: Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001)…

 

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From Celebrity Atheists

On ‘radical atheism’:

“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.”

On the burden of proof:

“I don’t accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view. My view is that the moon is made of rock. If someone says to me “Well, you haven’t been there, have you? You haven’t seen it for yourself, so my view that it is made of Norwegian Beaver Cheese is equally valid” – then I can’t even be bothered to argue. There is such a thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. God used to be the best explanation we’d got, and we’ve now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don’t think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don’t think the matter calls for even-handedness at all.”

On the arguments for religious ideas, contrasted with those for evolutionary biology:

Freethinkers: Christian Creeds…

 

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From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic

There is a natural desire on the part of every intelligent human being to harmonize his information—to make his theories agree—in other words, to make what he knows, or thinks he knows, in one department, agree and harmonize with what he knows, or thinks he knows, in every other department of human knowledge.

The human race has not advanced in line, neither has it advanced in all departments with the same rapidity. It is with the race as it is with an individual. A man may turn his entire attention to some one subject—as, for instance, to geology—and neglect other sciences. He may be a good geologist, but an exceedingly poor astronomer; or he may know nothing of politics or of political economy. So he may be a successful statesman and know nothing of theology. But if a man, successful in one direction, takes up some other question, he is bound to use the knowledge he has on one subject as a kind of standard to measure what he is told on some other subject. If he is a chemist, it will be natural for him, when studying some other question, to use what he knows in chemistry; that is to say, he will expect to find cause and effect everywhere —succession and resemblance. He will say: It must be in all other sciences as in chemistry—there must be no chance. The elements have no caprice. Iron is always the same. Gold does not change. Prussic acid is always poison—it has no freaks. So he will reason as to all facts in nature. He will be a believer in the atomic integrity of all matter, in the persistence of gravitation. Being so trained, and so convinced, his tendency will be to weigh what is called new information in the same scales that he has been using.

The Christian Cult stole Easter from us…

 

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Brenda Ueland: The Art of Listening…

 

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From Brenda Upland (1891 – 1985)
Author of If You Want To Write

It is through this creative process
that we at once love and are loved

I want to write about the great and powerful thing that listening is. And how we forget it. And how we don’t listen to our children, or those we love. And least of all – which is so important, too – to those we do not love. But we should. Because listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. Think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.

This is the reason: When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life. You know how if a person laughs at your jokes you become funnier and funnier, and if he does not, every tiny little joke in you weakens up and dies. Well, that is the principle of it. It makes people happy and free when they are listened to. And if you are a listener, it is the secret of having a good time in society (because everybody around you becomes lively and interesting), of comforting people, of doing them good.

Who are the people, for example, to whom you go for advice? Not to the hard, practical ones who can tell you exactly what to do, but to the listeners; that is, the kindest, least censorious, least bossy people you know. It is because by pouring out your problem to them, you then know what to do about it yourself.

When we listen to people there is an alternating current that recharges us so we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.

Scientists Pat and Peter Shaw, Rejecting “Religious Do-Gooders,” Ended Their Lives on Their Own Terms…

 

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From Friendly Atheist

At the end of their time on earth, Pat and Peter Shaw, a biochemist and an explorer/meteorologist, respectively, could look back on lives well lived. The suicide pact between the two, in which they knowingly took lethal drugs, was no act of desperation.

Their cultural and intellectual pursuits were many – classical music, opera, literature, wine, arguments over dinner with their many friends. They donated 10 percent of their annual income to political and environmental movements. Family events were spent thoroughly debating the topics of the day [with their three daughters].

As their capacity declined, the conversation about ending their own lives became more serious and their rejection of what Peter called “religious do-gooders” became more fierce. “It was also a way into their favourite topics; philosophy, ethics, politics, the law …,” says their youngest daughter, Kate. “The idea that their end-of-life decisions could be interfered with by people with the superstitions of medieval inquisitors astounded them, and alarmed them.”

Last spring, things started going downhill fast for the Australian couple.

Stewart Lee Becomes a Creationist…

 


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Atheist Susan Sontag Born On This Day…

 

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From The Freethinker, UK

SUSAN Sontag (January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American writer and filmmaker, teacher and political activist, publishing her first major work, the essay “Notes on ‘Camp'”, in 1964.

Her best known works include On PhotographyAgainst InterpretationStyles of Radical WillThe Way We Live Now, Illness as MetaphorRegarding the Pain of OthersThe Volcano Lover and In America.

Sontag was active in writing and speaking about, or travellng to, areas of conflict, including during the Vietnam War and the Siege of Sarajevo. She wrote extensively about photography, culture and media, AIDS and illness, human rights, and communism and leftist ideology. The New York Review of Books called her “one of the most influential critics of her generation”.

In “Sontag’s Atheism” a blogger called “Kathryn” wrote:

“Recently I heard an interview on Fresh Air with David Rieff, son of Susan Sontag, that explored his memoir about her death from cancer. Susan Sontag was an atheist, and this was a point of some discussion during the interview. Mr Rieff was asked if his mother had considered, as she was dying, embracing some sort of faith. At the end of life, so many people are comforted by their faith, the interviewer, Terry Gross, noted.

“Mr Rieff replied that his mother was not agnostic, she was an atheist. She truly didn’t believe in any continuation. She took religion way too seriously, he said, to think that she could embrace it at the last minute to get a sense of relief.

In a piece entitled “Susan Sontag’s Final Wish” Rief, a distinguished author in his own right, said: “Well, I’m an atheist too; if anything, more militant than my mother. I think it would have been grotesque of my mother to have become a person of faith purely in the interest of consoling herself. Surely, that would have been the most terrible therapeutic use of faith, and a disgrace in terms of faith. You shouldn’t start to believe because it suits you.”
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8 Ways To Leave This World As An Atheist…

 

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From Godless Mom

With the passing of David Bowie, Lemmy Kilmister and my very good friend’s loss of his mother all happening recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about death. Not in the sombre, woe-is-me sense, but just in a sort of curious way. I’ve thought back to all the bleak funerals I’ve been to, and realized they were all centered around god and an afterlife, rather than the very real life of the person we loved. It hit me, I’d never thought about death and funerals from a secular perspective. It’s scary to think I could leave this world, not having told anyone what I want, and end up having god invoked in my honour. Nothing would be more disrespectful to me, so I looked into some more secular end-of-life traditions.

Here are eight ways you can honour your secular views in death:

1. Donate your body to science. Help scientists study things like anatomy, decay and surgery. By doing so, you’re helping science progress, and in turn offering future generations a better understanding of the human body and medicine.

To donate your body to science, first, you should discuss it with your doctor and your family. Some bodies may not be accepted due to health issues, so your doctor may need to give you the go ahead. Telling your family ensures that your wishes are what actually happens when you pass. They should be made aware that if your body is accepted as a donation, it cannot be present for any services they might hold in your honour.

You then need to find an appropriate program near you, obtain their registration forms, and fill them out. Here are just a few:

Religion: A Celestial North Korea…

 


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Freethinkers: An Open Letter to Jesus Christ (1875)

 
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From The Truth Seeker (1875)

A classic Freethought essay from 1875
by founder: D. M. Bennett
For sending this essay among others through the US Mail, D.M. Bennett was tried in 1879 for obscenity, found guilty and sentenced to 13 months in jail.

OPEN LETTER TO JESUS CHRIST

[How old were you when you commenced working at the carpenters’ trade? Did you stretch boards, doors, etc., for your stepfather when he made them too short?]

It is quite possible some people may deem it improper that a letter addressed to the distinguished personage named above should be written, but we cannot so regard it. Countless prayers and appeals are daily made to him from all sorts of people, from all sorts of places, and upon all sorts of subjects. Every one says or asks what he pleases, and no man is authorized to dictate what shall be said. A prayer is an appeal, a letter is another form of appeal. Any individual has a right to either form. That a letter is any more improper than a prayer is not obvious, and in this case a letter is preferred:

To His Excellency, IMMANUEL J. CHRIST, otherwise called ” Prince of Peace,” “Sun of Righteousness,” “ Lion of the Tribe of Judah,“ “ Wonderful,” “ Counsellor,” “ The Messiah,” “The Redeemer,” “ The Savior,” “ The Bridegroom,” “ The Lamb of God,”  “Captain of our Salvation,” “Son of God,” “ Son of Man,“ etc., etc.

Respected Sir:  Learning from our daily papers that it is expected you will pass a few days in our immediate vicinity, in company with your agents, Moody and Sankey, who are supposed to be in your special service, and who have just commenced a grand starring engagement through our principal cities, in your interest, I embrace this opportunity to address you in this manner, hoping I may be able to attract your attention and to receive a reply. I am in quest of truth, and many say it is to be found with you, and to attain any good gift whatsoever of you, it is only necessary to ask. I wish knowledge and information on many subjects, and I hereby make my wants known, I trust with due respect and in a proper spirit. If I have not troubled you latterly as often as many do, I hope it will not disparage my chances of recognition.

If your memory serves you, you probably can bring to mind that something over a quarter of a century ago I was in the habit of addressing you regularly four or five times a day, and from one year’s end to another, but finally coming to the conclusion that my appeals were not heard, or that they availed me nothing, I discontinued them, thus saving much time and breath, as well as disappointment also, and losing nothing, so far as I was able to judge. After a silence of more than twenty-five years, it is hoped this effort will be successful; but if it is not, I shall not be greatly surprised.

Freethinkers: The Truth

 

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From Robert Ingersoll (1833 – 1899)

THE TRUTH

Through millions of ages, by countless efforts to satisfy his wants, to gratify his passions, his appetites, man slowly developed his brain, changed two of his feet into hands and forced into the darkness of his brain a few gleams and glimmerings of reason. He was hindered by ignorance, by fear, by mistakes, and he advanced only as he found the truth—the absolute facts. Through countless years he has groped and crawled and struggled and climbed and stumbled toward the light. He has been hindered and delayed and deceived by augurs and prophets—by popes and priests. He has been betrayed by saints, misled by apostles and Christs, frightened by devils and ghosts—enslaved by chiefs and kings—robbed by altars and thrones. In the name of education his mind has been filled with mistakes, with miracles, and lies, with the impossible, the absurd and infamous. In the name of religion he has been taught humility and arrogance, love and hatred, forgiveness and revenge.

But the world is changing. We are tired of barbarian bibles and savage creeds.

Nothing is greater, nothing is of more importance, than to find amid the errors and darkness of this life, a shining truth.

Truth is the intellectual wealth of the world.

The noblest of occupations is to search for truth.

Truth is the foundation, the superstructure, and the glittering dome of progress.

Truth is the mother of joy. Truth civilizes, ennobles, and purifies. The grandest ambition that can enter the soul is to know the truth.

Truth gives man the greatest power for good. Truth is sword and shield. It is the sacred light of the soul.

The man who finds a truth lights a torch.

How is Truth to be Found?

By investigation, experiment and reason.

Every human being should be allowed to investigate to the extent of his desire—his ability. The literature of the world should be open to him—nothing prohibited, sealed or hidden. No subject can be too sacred to be understood. Each person should be allowed to reach his own conclusions and to speak his honest thought.

Christianity: A Relationship Built On Threats…

 
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From Southern Skeptic

I want to tell you about a woman named Katrina. She’s cute, kind, intelligent, and has a successful career as the manager of a restaurant. Although she’s enjoyed the single life, she just turned thirty and is thinking about settling down. The problem is, she hasn’t found the right guy.

One day she was helping out the new bartender when a man named John sat down in front of her. He was gorgeous. She didn’t normally flirt with patrons, but it was hard to resist. He was funny, charming, and had a lot in common with her. At one point he hinted that he’d like to get her number, so before he left she grabbed his hand and wrote it down.

Thus began the best relationship she’d ever had. It was like they were made for each other. All those cliches about love, all those cheesy songs–they finally made sense. John was the most thoughtful and compassionate man she’d ever known. After only a few weeks, she felt certain he was the man she would marry.

One evening they had dinner at his house. When she finished eating, Katrina asked him where the bathroom was. “At the end of the hall,” he said. She headed down the hallway and found two doors directly across from each other. She tried the door on the right.

It opened with a creak. A small lamp by the door cast a dim, orange glow across the room. The first thing she noticed was the large, wooden table. It had thick leather straps attached to each corner. Next to it was a smaller table with an assortment of knives–some sharp, some jagged–and a hack saw. The hack saw had blood on it.

Humanistic (Atheist) Judaism…

 


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Christian Crock of the Week: How the Bible Promotes Terrorism…

 

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From Valerie Tarico

Islamists aren’t the only ones with instructions for terrorism in their holy book.

Last fall, Dutch pranksters put a cover from a Quran over a Bible and then asked passersby to read aloud homophobic, violent, or sexist passages that violate modern moral sensibilities. The texts shocked people who had never immersed themselves in the Iron Age world of the Bible writers, a world in which daughters can be sold as sexual slaves and most of us deserve the death penalty—you included.

Defenders of Islam point to the atrocities in the Bible and Christian history and argue that Islam looks positively peaceful by contrast. After all, according to one count, the Quran has only 532 cruel or violent passages, while the Bible has 1321. Christians respond that the Bible is longer and so the cruel, violent passages make up a lesser percent of the whole. Besides, they say, the Quran contains more timeless prescriptions of violence while the Bible merely contains more descriptions. To religious outsiders, this back and forth is rather like arguing over two containers of rotting leftovers in the back of the fridge, trying to decide which would make a better dinner. Why eat either?

Whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same God—a point debated on both sides—their sacred texts offer similar blueprints for living. ISIS terrorists claim that their scripts for jihad, executions, sexual slavery and theocracy come straight from the Quran, and they cite chapter and verse to back up their claim. But Christians who find ISIS horrifying might be even more horrified to learn that similar scripts can be found in their own Good Book, including endorsements of terrorism that rival the most vile atrocities committed in the name of Allah.

Business As Usual: MSNBC and the New York Times Censor the Latest Charlie Hebdo Cover…

 

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On the one-year anniversary of the Islamist bloodbath at Charlie Hebdo, the New York Times deemed the weekly’s commemorative and irreverent covernewsworthy, but declined to show it — or even to explain it properly.

Writes the paper’s Christopher D. Shea:

The cover shows a bearded figure in a blood-stained robe and carrying a machine gun, and the words “One Year After: The Assassin Is on the Run.”

That description is technically correct. But of course, as we shouldn’t need to point out again, the “bearded figure” is no mystery man: it’s Charlie‘s depiction of God. Without that clarification, and without a picture of the cartoon in question, the Times story makes zero sense.

The yellow-bellied nature of this deliberate obfuscation should come as no surprise: the progressive-to-a-fault newspaper pulled the same shit with the very first post-massacre Charlie cover, deciding to write about it as the newsy event it clearly was, but stopping short of showing the relatively innocuous drawing on the grounds that Muslims might be offended.

The God on the latest Charlie cover doesn’t even seem to be particularly Muhammadesque, so the New York Times editorial staff has just created a special new level of weaselry (disclosure: I wrote for the paper frequently in the early 2000s).

As you might expect given the track record of Western media on this front, the Times doesn’t stand alone in its display of timidity. We can also point and laugh at MSNBC:

An MSNBC rep told the [Washington Post’s] Erik Wemple Blog today that the network, consistent with last year’s approach, isn’t showing images of the cover. Then we pointed out that Mediaite’s Alex Griswold had snared a screengrab of MSNBC indeed showing the cover.

In a reply that merits no further commentary from this blog, the MSNBC rep says that the network showed the current Charlie Hebdo cover up until it confirmed that the image was of God. “Once we found that out, we stopped showing it,” notes the rep.

It’s fair to say that whoever wrote and edited that MSNBC story is both remarkably dim – for not even understanding a cartoon that any smart 10-year-old would get – as well as cowardly for belatedly disappearing the illustration without even the slightest acknowledgment or explanation.

For me, there’s only one plus side to this phenomenon. When supposedly world-class news media shrug off their responsibility to fully cover current events for no other discernible reason than that tender-toed religionists might get offended, I’m happy that I left “professional” journalism years ago.
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Freethinkers: Recovering From Religion — Hotline Project…

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From Recovering From Religion

The Hotline Project is expanding to include a new, Live Chat Line. Now, people all across the world can connect with a Hotline Agent through an instant chat client.

Think about it… Anybody who may risk being outed because someone overhears their call can now get help using their computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Our tentative launch date is March 1, 2016. In order to meet that deadline, we need volunteers to work as chat line agents. We’ll provide the training and mentoring so you are well prepared and confident in your work.

We also need your financial support. Even a small donation will go a long way to helping us get the chat line operational.

I’m offering you this personal invitation to join us as we make history…again!

Cheers!

Teresa MacBain
Director
The Hotline Project
Recovering From Religion

Volunteer Here

Donate Here
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Freethinkers: 22 Reasons To Stop Believing In God…

 


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Freethinkers: Ten Contradictions Theists Just Can’t Stop Making…

 

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Talking with theists about religion sometimes – and by sometimes I mean almost always – feels like Groundhog Day,  a painful and monotonous slog that simply travels the same territory over and over and over.  I get weary of both hearing and repeating the same arguments so frequently, so I decided to compile the most tired (not to mention the most tiresome) themes that I encounter, so that going forward I can simply point people here when they trot out these inevitable gems.

1. Explaining what god is or wants, then saying humans cannot understand god.

The conversation goes like this:

Theist: “God loves us and wants us to be saved. God is just and merciful. God will provide. God always gives us what we need, not just what we want.”

Atheist: “If god loves us, is merciful, provides, and always gives us what we need, why do children starve to death?”

Theist: “We are mere mortals and can’t expect to understand His ways. You can’t apply human standards to god.”

Uh . . . If we can’t apply human standards to god when it comes to figuring out why he lets children starve, why can we apply human standards to establish that he loves us, is just and merciful, and will provide?  By what means do you ascertain these attributes in the first place if not by human standards?  God is either knowable or he isn’t; you either understand him or you don’t. If his reasons for allowing innocent children to suffer and die are inscrutable, so too must be his reasons for everything else, and to claim otherwise is to admit that you in fact know nothing of god, but have opted to believe what is most comforting to you – something that is manifestly apparent to atheists already, but which most theists would not confess in so many words.

2. Claiming that god loves us all, then rationalizing human suffering.

Fighting God. Recommended…

 

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