Freethought

The Conservative Attempt to Re-Write Our Progressive History…

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From Thom Hartmann

Oklahoma isn’t the only state where Republicans are waging war on high school history class.

Conservatives in a handful of other states, including Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and – no surprise here – Texas are now pushing bills that would ban the College Board’s AP U.S. history curriculum.

The main issue that conservatives have with the current AP history curriculum is that it’s “too liberal” and supposedly focuses too much on the “negative” parts of American history, whatever that means. So Conservatives want to replace it with a curriculum that focuses on topics conservatives like – topics like, you know, Reagan, Reagan, and, just for good measure, more Reagan.

In all seriousness, though, there’s a really good reason that conservatives are freaking out about what kind of history curriculum is going to be taught in our classrooms. And that’s the simple fact that the history of America is the history of the continuous progressive transformation of this country.

Freedom of speech, backlash of anger over four words at South Portland High School…

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From The Portland Press Herald

Three students who made others aware of their right not to say the Pledge of Allegiance are stunned by the emotional reaction.

It’s a story about three top students at South Portland High School, four little words added to the daily invitation to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and a provocative Facebook post that provided an unexpected lesson in the politics of the freedom of speech.

Senior class president Lily SanGiovanni sparked community outrage in January when she changed the way she invited students and faculty members to recite the pledge.

We must offend religion more: Islam, Christianity and our tolerance for ancient myths, harmful ideas. Our enduring deference to religion, despite its toxicity and phony explanations for the cosmos, lets it survive… 

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From Salon

“Yes, it is freedom of speech, but,” said Inna Shevchenko, the 24-year-old leader of the topless, fiercely atheist activist group Femen in France.  On Feb. 14 she was addressing the conference on art, blasphemy and freedom of expression held at the Krudttønden, a café and cultural center in Copenhagen.  She continued.  “Why do we still say ‘but’ when we…”

A sustained barrage of automatic gunfire interrupted her.  She, the Swedish cartoonist with her onstage, Lars Vilks (famous for his 2007 drawings of the Prophet Muhammad that sparked deadly riots in the Islamic world), and much of the audience hurled themselves to the floor before escaping through the building’s rear exit.  The hooded terrorist assailant, a 22-year-old Danish citizen of Arab descent, ended up killing a Danish filmmaker, Finn Noergaard, and wounding five others.  Police later felled the assassin after he had opened fire on a synagogue, murdering one.

Sam Harris: Atheists have no ‘blood on their hands’ for Chapel Hill murders…

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From The Raw Story

Sam Harris addressed the role atheism may or may not have played in the murders of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha by Craig Hicks in Chapel Hill, North Carolina last week. 

He began by noting that while many have blamed the “militancy” in the atheist community for these murders, “there’s absolutely nothing in my work or my mind that is supportive of a crime like this, and I would hope that this would go without saying — but it probably can’t. The deluge of claims of equivalence between this crime, and the Charlie Hebdo atrocity and the daily behavior of a group like ISIS, has been astonishing to witness.”

“You can sense that people have just been waiting for a crime like this that could conceivably be pinned on atheism.”

Jesus and Mo…

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College Students Are Abandoning Religion In Droves…

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From Vocative

28 percent of freshmen don’t identify with any particular faith, an all-time low

America’s Class of 2018 cares less about religious identity than any other group of college freshman in the last 40 years, newly released research shows.

The Double Life of Hasidic Atheists…

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From Aeon
Thanks to Todd

Seduced by science and rationalism, yet tied to their families and communities, Hasidic atheists opt for a double life…

The moment Solomon lost his faith, he was standing on the D train, swaying back and forth with its movement as if in prayer. But it wasn’t a prayer book that the young law student was reading – he had already been to synagogue, where he had wrapped himself in the leather thongs that bound him to Orthodox Judaism, laying phylacteries and reciting the prayers three times daily.

The tome in his hands now was Alan Dershowitz’s The Genesis of Justice (2000), which used Talmudic and Hasidic interpretations of the Bible to argue that stories in the book of Genesis, from Adam and Eve eating the apple to Noah and his ark, constituted God’s learning curve – a means of establishing a moral code and the rules of justice that prevail today.

Darwin Day…

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It’s Time to Fight the Faith Mongering Fraudsters…

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From Salon

Toxic drivel, useful media idiots, and the real story about faith and violence. Out of misguided notions of “tolerance,” we avert our critical gaze from blatant absurdities. We must now get real…

The relentless march of time generally affords humankind, which happens to include folks in the media, the chance to reflect on events and acquire wisdom. But the weeks passing since the massacre in Paris of the highly talented Charlie Hebdo cartoonists for their depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have only granted a good number of commentators the opportunity to bedork themselves time and again, as they pen columns and make on-air statements that both spread confusion and betray commitments to untenable, morally reprehensible extenuative positions concerning Islam. This is tragic, for, if anything, the slaughter of European artists exercising their lawful right to self-expression in the capital of their own country offered us all a “teachable moment” sans pareil about the nature of the threat lurking within – in fact, innate to — the “religion of peace.”

Sam Harris on Islam and Violence…

Hear also Sam Harris podcast – On Charlie Hebdo and Other Things here

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Nonconformance…

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From Atheist Revolution

Sporting events, commencement ceremonies, and even government meetings often begin with a group display of respect for faith. Everyone is asked to stand, remove their hats, and/or bow their heads in prayer. And almost everyone does so even though some in attendance would probably prefer not to. We humans are social creatures, and the power of the group is tremendous in shaping behavior. Going against the grain is rarely easy.

We’re the lucky ones…


Richard Dawkins reads from his book ‘Unweaving the Rainbow’

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”
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10 Reasons Popular Versions of the Christian Heaven Would be Hell…

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From Valery Tarico

Maybe descriptions of Hell are so horrific to keep people from thinking about how hellish popular versions of the Christian Heaven would be—even without Pat Robertson in the mix. 

Most Westerners are at least vaguely familiar with the popular Christian version of Heaven: pearly gates, streets of gold, winged angels and the Righteous, with their bodies made perfect and immortal, singing the praises of God forever. What’s surprising is how few people have actually thought about what a nightmare this kind of existence would be.

Let me start by laying out a bit more detail about Heaven itself.

On Being Right About Right or Wrong…

moralFrom Sam Harris

 

Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. His latest book is The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom.

Michael was kind enough to answer a few questions by email:

*  *  *

Harris: You appear to believe, as I do, that morality can (and should) arise out of a concern for the well-being of conscious creatures. But this normative claim is distinct from an evolutionary account of how we came to have moral emotions and preferences in the first place. It seems to me that there are two worthy, but distinct, scientific projects: (1) understanding how we got here and (2) understanding how to maximize our well-being going forward. Both projects are based on facts—facts about how we evolved, and facts about how conscious minds like our own can flourish in this universe. I’m wondering if you agree with this distinction and whether you have any further thoughts about the role science can play in deciding questions of right and wrong and good and evil.

Shermer: The criterion I use—inspired by your starting point in The Moral Landscape of “the well-being of conscious creatures”—is “the survival and flourishing of sentient beings.” By survival I mean the instinct to live, and by flourishing I mean having adequate sustenance, safety, shelter, bonding, and social relations for physical and mental health. I am trying to make an evolutionary/biological case for starting here by arguing that any organism subject to natural selection—which includes all organisms on this planet and most likely on any other planet as well—will by necessity have this drive to survive and flourish. If it didn’t, it would not live long enough to reproduce and would therefore not be subject to natural selection.

List of Religions and Spiritual Traditions…

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From Wikipedia

Abrahamic religions

A group of monotheistic traditions sometimes grouped with one another for comparative purposes, because all refer to a patriarch named Abraham.

Bábism

Bahá’í Faith

How Religion Can Let Loose Humanity’s Most Violent Impulses…

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From Valerie Terico

Religion is just one part of the lethal cocktail, but it is a powerful intoxicant.

The year 2015 has opened to slaughter in the name of gods.  In Paris, two Islamist brothers executed Charlie Hebdo cartoonists “in defense of the Prophet,” while an associate killed shoppers in a kosher grocery.  In Nigeria, Islamist members of Boko Haram massacred a town to cries of Allahu Akbar—Allah is the greatest!  Simultaneously, the United Nations released a report detailing the “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims in the Central African Republic by Christian militias, sometimes reciting Bible verses. On a more civilized note, Saudi Arabia began inflicting 1000 lashes on a jailed blasphemous blogger—to be doled out over 20 weeks so that he may survive to the end.

In media outlets around the world, fierce debate has erupted over who or what is responsible.  Is monotheism inherently violent? Is religion an excuse or cover for other kinds of conflict? Are Western colonialism and warmongering in the root of the problem?  Do blasphemers make themselves targets? Is the very concept of blasphemy a form of coercion or violence that demands resistance?  Is killing in the name of gods a distortion of religion? Alternately, is it the real thing?

Each of these questions is best answered “yes, and” rather than “yes/no.”

Blasphemy!

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson: The Erosion of Progress By Religions…

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The Nigerian Benny Hinn…

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From Freethought Blogs

I’m sure you’ve seen Benny Hinn’s infamous blow-people-down-with-the-breath-of-god routine. Nigerian con man Chris Oyakhilome does much the same thing, only he makes it look like a Jedi using the force to topple people over by thrusting his hand at them.

Seriously, how does anyone fall for this shit?
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On the Freedom to Offend an Imaginary God

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From Sam Harris (2012)

The latest wave of Muslim hysteria and violence has now spread to over twenty countries. The walls of our embassies and consulates have been breached, their precincts abandoned to triumphant mobs, and many people have been murdered—all in response to an unwatchable Internet video titled Innocence of Muslims. Whether over a film, a cartoon, a novel, a beauty pageant, or an inauspiciously named teddy bear, the coming eruption of pious rage is now as predictable as the dawn. This is already an old and boring story about old, boring, and deadly ideas. And I fear it will be with us for the rest of our lives.

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