Ayaan Hirsi Ali Examines Islam in the 21st Century…

From Ayaan Hirsi Ali

An Interview with the Scholar, Activist, and Politician

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the most renowned, and most controversial, religious commentators of our day. Her straightforward critiques of radical Islam have drawn admirers and detractors on both sides of the political spectrum, and she has become a hero to some and an enemy to others. She experienced the horrors of religious extremism growing up in Somalia, and she later moved to the Netherlands, where she rose to a seat in the Dutch parliament before immigrating to the U.S. In this year’s Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, she argues for a wholesale critical reexamination within Islam. She brings her life story and firebrand politics to the Granada Theatre this Saturday.

How has your year been so far?

In 2014, Brandeis [University] rescinded the invitation for an honorary degree, and soon after that, all these events started to unfold pretty quickly. We had the headlines around the 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria and at just about the same time news of the woman in Sudan who was sentenced to death for being a Christian. Fast forward to ISIS and Charlie Hebdo, the attack on the schools in Pakistan, the shooting incidents in Canada and here in the U.S.… It’s as if before that, what I was saying to many people was hypothetical. It was as if there are some crazy people sometimes, and some of them do things that are bad, but there’s really nothing to worry about. What happened is people started piecing together all of these events and the motivations of people doing very nasty things, especially Boko Haram and the Islamic State, and all of a sudden what you have to say is it’s serious and it’s related to this religion.

Jesus is NOT the answer. Jesus is the problem…


From Bruce Gerencser

I don’t hate the flesh and blood Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine, nor do I hate the Jesus found in the pages of the Bible. These Jesus’s are relics of the past. I’ll leave it to historians to argue and debate whether these Jesus’s were real or fiction. Over the centuries, Christians have created many Jesus’s in their own image.This is the essence of Christianity, an ever-evolving religion bearing little resemblance to what it was even a century ago.

The Jesus I hate is the modern, Western Jesus, the American Jesus, the Jesus who has been a part of my life for almost fifty-eight years. The Jesus’s of bygone eras have no power to harm me, but the modern Jesus, the Jesus of the about three hundred thousand Christian churches that populate every community in America, he has the power to affect my life, hurt my family, and destroy my country.  And I, with a vengeance, hate him.

Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible…

From Jerry Coyne

In his provocative new book, evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne lays out in clear, dispassionate detail why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion — including faith, dogma, and revelation — leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions.

Coyne is responding to a national climate in which over half of Americans don’t believe in evolution (and congressmen deny global warming), and warns that religious prejudices and strictures in politics, education, medicine, and social policy are on the rise. Extending the bestselling works of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, he demolishes the claims of religion to provide verifiable “truth” by subjecting those claims to the same tests we use to establish truth in science.

60 Minutes Report on Child Suicide Bombers…


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Just in case you needed to be a little more depressed today, here’s a recent 60 Minutes report on child suicide bombers: how they’re recruited and why they would ever do such a thing.

The most damning thing in the report may be that some of the kids are given no choice: Either they must agree to participate in a suicide bombing or they will be killed.

Their reward for doing this, of course, is eternal paradise as stated in the Qur’an…

Video here

Why Science and Religion Are Not Compatable…



The end of religion as we know it: Why churches can no longer hide the truth…



From Alternet

Daniel Dennett on closeted atheist clergy and our new age of radical transparency…

If Daniel Dennett is anything, he is a champion of the facts. The prominent philosopher of science is an advocate for hard-nosed empiricism, and as a leading New Atheist he calls for naturalistic explanations of religion. Dennett is also the co-author (along with Linda LaScola) of the recently expanded and updated Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Faith Behind, which documents the stories of preachers and rabbis who themselves came to see…the facts.

Caught in the Pulpit is a close cousin to The Clergy Project, an outreach effort to “current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs”—many of whom must closet their newfound skepticism to preserve their careers and communities.

For Dennett, closeted atheist clergy are not simply tragic figures, they are harbingers of great things to come. Peppered amongst Caught in the Pulpit’s character vignettes are mini-essays in which Dennett predicts a sea change in religious doctrine and practice. Our digital information age, he argues, is ushering in a “new world of universal transparency” where religious institutions can no longer hide the truth. To survive in an age of transparency, religions will need to come to terms with the facts.

Jesus and Mo…


Hey Fundamentalist Preacher: Better stop looking backwards… something’s gaining on you…



From Center For Inquiry

Religious “Nones” Second-Largest Group in US…

The Center for Inquiry hailed new survey data on Americans’ religious affiliation from Pew showing that those who do not identify with any religion are now the second-largest group in the United States, at almost 23% of the population. CFI, an organization that advocates for science and secularism, declared that the results are a sign of the nation’s increasing secularization and of religion’s waning influence in the lives of many Americans.

In survey results released today, the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life reports that the religiously unaffiliated, which includes atheists, agnostics, and those who claim “nothing in particular,” now make up 22.8% of the American population, up from 16.1% in 2007. This is second only to Evangelical Protestants at 25.4% and greater than the number of Catholics, Mainline Protestants, and all other religious groups in the country.

“America is transforming before our eyes,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “We are witnessing a tectonic shift from a nation nearly unified in its religiousness a generation ago, to an America where increasing numbers of Americans are rejecting religious doctrines and are living lives largely free of religious influence.”

Godliness in the Known and the Unknowable: Alan Lightman on Science and Spirituality…

From Brain Pickings

“Faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand… the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world.”

“If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from,” Carl Sagan wrote in his timeless meditation on science and religion“we will have failed.” It’s a sentiment that dismisses in one fell Saganesque swoop both the blind dogmatism of religion and the vain certitude of science — a sentiment articulated by some of history’s greatest minds, from Einstein to Ada Lovelace to Isaac Asimov, all the way back to Galileo, and one that Sagan echoed a decade later, three months before his death, writing: “The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.” Yet centuries after Galileo and decades after Sagan, humanity remains profoundly uneasy about reconciling these conflicting frameworks for understanding the universe and our place in it.

That vital discomfort is precisely what physicist Alan Lightman — celebrated author of both nonfiction and novels, one of the finest science essayists writing today, the very first person to receive dual appointments in science and the humanities at MIT, an extraordinary storyteller, and one of my favorite minds — explores in one of the essays in his entrancing new anthology, The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew (public library | IndieBound).

Sam Harris on Spirituality without Religion, Happiness, and How to Cultivate the Art of Presence


sFrom Brain Pickings

“Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn, and yet there is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.”

Nietzsche’s famous proclamation that “God is dead” is among modern history’s most oft-cited aphorisms, and yet as is often the case with its ilk, such quotations often miss the broader context in a way that bespeaks the lazy reductionism with which we tend to approach questions of spirituality today. Nietzsche himself clarified the full dimension of his statement six years later, in a passage from The Twilight of Idols, where he explained that “God” simply signified the supersensory realm, or “true world,” and wrote: “We have abolished the true world. What has remained? The apparent one perhaps? Oh no! With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one.”

Indeed, this struggle to integrate the sensory and the supersensory, the physical and the metaphysical, has been addressed with varying degrees of sensitivity by some of history’s greatest minds — reflections like Carl Sagan on science and religion, Flannery O’Connor on dogma, belief, and the difference between religion and faith, Alan Lightman on science and spirituality, Albert Einstein on whether scientists pray, Ada Lovelace on the interconnectedness of everything, Alan Watts on the difference between belief and faith, C.S. Lewis on the paradox of free will, and Jane Goodall on science and spirit.

In Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (public library | IndieBound), philosopher, neuroscientist, and mindful skeptic Sam Harris offers a contemporary addition to this lineage of human inquiry — an extraordinary and ambitious masterwork of such integration between science and spirituality, which Harris himself describes as “by turns a seeker’s memoir, an introduction to the brain, a manual of contemplative instruction, and a philosophical unraveling of what most people consider to be the center of their inner lives.” Or, perhaps most aptly, an effort “to pluck the diamond from the dunghill of esoteric religion.”

Freethought: Why should atheists have to show respect for religion?


From Greta Christina

“Can’t we all just get along?”

Among progressive and moderate religious believers, ecumenicalism is a big deal. For many of these believers, being respectful of religious beliefs that are different from theirs is a central guiding principle. In this view, different religions are seen as a beautifully varied tapestry of faith: each strand with its own truths, each with its own unique perspective on God and its own unique way of worshipping him. Her. It. Them. Whatever. Respecting other people’s religious beliefs is a cornerstone of this worldview… to the point where criticizing or even questioning anyone else’s religious belief is seen as rude and offensive at best, bigoted and intolerant at worst.

And this ecumenical approach to religion drives many atheists up a tree.

Including me.


Don’t atheists want a world where everyone’s right to their own religious views — including no religious views — is universally acknowledged? Don’t we want a world with no religious wars or hatreds? Don’t we want a world where a diversity of perspectives on religion is accepted and even embraced? Why would atheists have any objections at all to the principles of religious ecumenicalism?

Well, for starters: It’s bullshit.


Richard Dawkins: New Interview 2015…



National Day of Reason…



National Day of Reason, Secular Alternative to National Day of Prayer, Celebrated by Humanists and Church-State Advocates

Today, humanists, atheists and other nontheists across the nation will be observing the National Day of Reason, an alternative to the National Day of Prayer. This is the first year that a congressional resolution (House Res. 228) has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to honor the National Day of Reason.

“Millions of Americans do not believe in prayer, but all Americans, regardless of their worldviews, can support reason as a guiding principle that will empower us to tackle climate change, disease and the many other pressing problems we face today,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

The American Humanist Association worked to introduce the resolution with sponsor Representative Mike Honda (CA-17) and co-sponsor Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC). The American Humanist Association began observing the National Day of Reason in response to a 1952 congressional resolution instituting the National Day of Prayer.

The American Humanist Association also spearheads other efforts to encourage elected officials at the state and local levels to issue statements and proclamations recognizing the first Thursday in May as a day dedicated to reason, critical thinking and scientific inquiry. This year, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, Jean Stothert and Mayor of Bellevue, Nebraska, Rita Sanders have all issued National Day of Reason Proclamations.

Speckhardt continued, “By supporting the National Day of Reason, elected officials are maintaining a secular government that represents all of their constituents, including those of minority religions or no religion.”

Local groups around the country will be observing the day with rallies, lectures and entertainment. The American Humanist Association will be hosting a National Day of Reason reception on Thursday evening to kick-off its 74th annual conference in Denver, Colorado.

More information about the National Day of Reason can be found here.


A Day of Public Indecency: Exposing the National Day of Prayer…


From Bruce Gerencser

Thursday, May 7, 2015 is the annual National Day of Prayer.  On April 17, 1952, “President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer (NDP) must be declared by each subsequent president at an appropriate date of his choice.” In 1988, the law was amended, setting the first Thursday in May as date for the NDP. While the NDP is supposed to be a day when people of all faiths come together to pray, it has been co-opted by Evangelicals. While certainly people of various faiths will gather to pray on Thursday, it will be Evangelicals and conservative Catholics that get all the media attention. Instead of following the command of Jesus to pray in secret, Evangelicals will gather at county courthouses and government buildings and metaphorically expose their 13.316 inch prayer penis for everyone to see. On this day, Evangelicals want everyone to know that the United States is a Christian nation, that the one true God is the Christian God, and that they are God’s chosen people.

This just in from La-La Land: People don’t like atheists because they serve as a grim reminder of death’s finality…

 gFrom Raw Story

More and more people in the United States are casting aside religion and identifying as atheists — yet polling has found that nearly half of Americans still wouldn’t vote for a presidential candidate who didn’t believe in God. Most Americans think atheists are about as trustworthy as rapists.

And prejudice towards atheists is by no means unique to the United States. It is an attitude shared across the majority of the world’s countries — both past and present.

“Atheists have long been an especially stigmatized group,” social psychologist Corey L. Cook and his colleagues explained in new research on anti-atheist prejudice. “In fact, the Greek term atheos (godless, without a god) originated as a pejorative designation of those who failed to worship culturally accepted gods; and, religious and political leaders throughout recorded history have vigorously inveighed against those who do not believe in God (or Gods).”

Researchers have found evidence that atheists are disliked and distrusted because of the widespread belief that people behave better when they think an almighty divine power is watching their every move. But Cook and his colleagues have proposed another hypothesis: Atheists are disliked because they pose a fundamental threat to the worldview of religious people, a worldview that helps them mitigate “the potential terror arising from the uniquely human awareness of death.”

An Open Letter To The Mothers Of The Garland Shooting Attackers…


From Godless Mom
Atheist Parenting Blog

Hey Mamas,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry you lost your boys. As the mother of a boy, this is the unthinkable. My heart aches for your loss.

I’m sorry your sons died over cartoons. Cartoons are supposed to be sources of humour and smiles and laughter. They are supposed to trigger thought, not violence. They are entertainment, commentary and art… not a reason to die.

I’m sorry that in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, the media did not stand up for free speech and publish as many Muhammad cartoons as possible, making it normal. I’m sure, had the media not been so gutless, and Muhammad cartoons became frequent and normal, that the ones in Garland would not have had the impact on your sons that they did.

I’m sorry your sons’ education failed to produce critical thinkers and instead, likely left them feeling bullied, alone and terrified for their future, like most other kids. I’m sorry their education failed to fill their lives with richness and awe and wonder, and instead, left them empty, looking for something to fill a void.

How To Tell Shit From Shinola…



Dear Believer: Why Do You Believe?



Why I am pro-Abortion, not Just Pro-Choice…


From Valerie Tarico

Recently, the Daily Kos published an article titled, I Am Pro-Choice, Not Pro-Abortion. “Has anyone ever truly been pro-abortion?” one commenter asked.

Uh. Yes. Me. That would be me.

I am pro-abortion like I’m pro-knee-replacement and pro-chemotherapy and pro-cataract surgery. As the last protection against ill-conceived childbearing when all else fails, abortion is part of a set of tools that help women and men to form the families of their choosing. I believe that abortion care is a positive social good. And I suspect that a lot of other people secretly believe the same thing. And I think it’s time we said so.

Note: As an aside, I’m also pro-choice. Choice is about who gets to make the decision. The question of whether and when we bring a new life into the world is, to my mind, one of the most important decisions a person can make. It is too big a decision for us to make for each other, and especially for perfect strangers.

Laughing at religion is exactly what the world needs…


From Salon

We should thank Bill Maher for taking a necessary battle to the faithful…

No matter what anyone says, religion is a deeply, if darkly, hilarious topic, and the sundry tomes of the sacred canon read more like joke books than anything else, albeit sick joke books.  How can we, in the 21st century, having mapped (and even edited) the human genome, engineered pluripotent stem cells, and discovered the Higgs Boson, be expected to revere the dusty old Bible, for example, with its quarreling goatherds and idolatrous tribesmen, and its golden calves and talking snakes, to say nothing of its revenge-porn (against unbelievers) finale?  How can we not laugh aloud when Genesis declares that Almighty God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, yet had to pilfer a rib from Adam to produce Eve?  What are we to make of Numbers 22:28-30, wherein the Lord intervenes, not to part the sea or still the sun, but to set Balaam’s donkey a-jabbering?  How are we supposed to accept Jesus as an up-to-snuff savior when, in Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:13-14, he loses his temper and cusses out a fig tree, condemning it to death, for not bearing fruit out of season?  Any second-grade science-class student would have known better, and possibly even exercised more self-control.

“Properly read,” declared the science-fiction author and biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov, “the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”  He was right.  The same may be said of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, which the late, dearly missed Christopher Hitchens called “not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require.”

The proper response to religion, riddled as it is with absurdities, is, thus, laughter, either of the belly-slapping, table-pounding kind or the pitying, head-shaking sort.  Laughter, but also outrage.  After all, those who take such absurdities as manifestations of the Godhead have, especially since the Reagan years, hogged the moral high ground and commandeered American politics, polluting public discourse with their reactionary cant and halting progress in reproductive rights, science (think the Bush-era ban on stem cell research) and education (to wit: stubborn attempts to have oxymoronic “Intelligent Design” rubbish taught in schools).  Look abroad, and the panorama of savagery religion must answer for curdles the blood.  No rationalist could contemplate all this entirely unnecessary faith-driven regress and backsliding with anything but anger, tempered with despair.  If we want to do true and lasting good in this world, we are morally obligated to fight faith in the open, and root it out from every nook and cranny in which it hides.

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