From Dangerous Talk
While I have Facebook friends who are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Satanists, Pagans, and everything in between, the fact is that I am an atheist activist and blogger. That being said, most of my Facebook friends are atheists or identify with some label that is encompassed within the greater community of reason. Interestingly enough when I look at my Facebook feed, I see that the vast majority of my friends tend to support Bernie Sander over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary for President of the United States.
What does that mean? It actually doesn’t mean much of anything at all. It’s anecdotal. It simply means that I am friends with a lot of progressive Democrats who happen to support Sanders over Clinton for whatever reason. Not all of them are even atheists. But I do think in this case, my friend list might just serve as a small microcosm of the greater atheist community. I do think that the vast majority of atheists do support Sanders over Clinton and for good reason.
The population of nonreligious Americans — including atheists, agnostics and those who call themselves “nothing in particular” — stands at an all-time high this election year. Americans who say religion is not important in their lives and who do not belong to a religious group, according to the Pew Research Center, have risen in numbers from an estimated 21 million in 2008 to more than 36 million now.
Despite the extraordinary swiftness and magnitude of this shift, our political campaigns are still conducted as if all potential voters were among the faithful. The presumption is that candidates have everything to gain and nothing to lose by continuing their obsequious attitude toward orthodox religion and ignoring the growing population of those who make up a more secular America.
Ted Cruz won in Iowa by expanding Republican voter turnout among the evangelical base. Donald J. Trump placed second after promising “to protect Christians” from enemies foreign and domestic. The third-place finisher Marco Rubio’s line “I don’t think you can go to church too often” might well have been the campaign mantra. Mr. Rubio was first christened a Roman Catholic, baptized again at the age of 8 into the Mormon Church, and now attends a Southern Baptist megachurch with his wife on Saturdays and Catholic Mass on Sundays.
Democrats are only a trifle more secular in their appeals. Hillary Clinton repeatedly refers to her Methodist upbringing, and even Bernie Sanders — a cultural Jew not known to belong to a synagogue — squirms when asked whether he believes in God. When Jimmy Kimmel posed the question, Mr. Sanders replied in a fog of words at odds with his usual blunt style: “I am who I am. And what I believe in and what my spirituality is about, is that we’re all in this together.” He once referred to a “belief in God” that requires him to follow the Golden Rule — a quote his supporters seem to trot out whenever someone suggests he’s an atheist or agnostic.
The question is not why nonreligious Americans vote for these candidates — there is no one on the ballot who full-throatedly endorses nonreligious humanism — but why candidates themselves ignore the growing group of secular voters.
From The New Humanist
Across the Middle East, governments are cracking down on non-belief. But Arab atheists are becoming more visible…
Religious disbelief is viewed with alarm in most Arab countries. Two government ministries in Egypt have been ordered to produce a national plan to “confront and eliminate” atheism. In Saudi Arabia, the most recent anti-terrorism law classifies “calling for atheist thought” as a terrorist offence.
This hounding of non-believers might seem especially strange at a time when concerns are high about those who kill in the name of religion, but Arab societies have a general aversion to nonconformity, and the regimes that rule them often promote an official version of Islam that suits their political needs. Thus both jihadism and atheism – though very different in character – are viewed as forms of social or political deviance, with fears raised in the Arab media that those who reject God and religion will bring chaos and immorality if their ideas gain a foothold.
In six Arab countries – Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen – apostasy is punishable by death. There have been no executions in recent years, but people deemed to have “insulted” religion, often in trivial ways, can face long prison sentences.
From Bruce Gerencser
I was a Christian for most of my life, a pastor for most of my adult life. I was a fervent believer of the faith once delivered to the saints. I believed it, practiced it, and lived it. When I was in the Christian box, it all made sense to me. Everything I read, everything I heard, and everything I experienced, reinforced the belief that I was in the right box.
God told me, the Bible told me, my friends and family told me, and the opposition of the world told me, that I was in the right box. Every once in a while I would take one step outside the box and experience a bit of “other-boxedness.” After every foray into the world outside the Christian box, I would return to the safety of the box.
This is the way I lived my life for five decades. Then one day, I decided to take more than one step outside of the box. I haltingly, tentatively took a few steps, staying close enough to the box that I could run back if I needed to.
Over time, I wandered farther and farther away from the box. I found all kinds of things that were not in the box I was in. I was confronted with data, beliefs, ideologies, facts, and practices that I had never heard of. I was uncertain about what I should make of these new-found things.
I talked to fellow box-keepers about this. They cautioned me about wandering outside of the box. Nothing good happens outside of the box, Bruce. Everything we need for life and godliness is right here in the box. We even have a manual that tells us how to live in the box.
But I continued to wander outside of the box. One day, I wandered so far outside the box that I realized, for the first time, that the box sat on a steep, slippery hill. And there were other boxes too, all of them on that same slippery hill. The first time I noticed this, I quickly retreated to the safety of the box. Then one day, I found myself far outside the box. I turned around to look longingly at the box and I slipped, and before I knew it I was slipping and sliding down the slippery hill. On this day I fought and clawed my way back up the hill and I crawled back to the box. Dirty and bruised, I was safe within the box once again. The box was my salvation.
From The Humanist
I WAS SIX YEARS OLD and stricken with grief over the recent death of my dearly beloved dog. Our minister dropped by to visit my mother, and I asked him to tell me how I would meet my dog again in heaven. He said I would not meet my dog in heaven, because animals have no souls and God does not allow them in. I would, however, meet all my dear relatives in heaven, and wasn’t that nice?
I was horrified. I tried to negotiate. I said I’d be willing to trade a couple of aunts and uncles for my dog, if God could perhaps make an exception for me. The minister said no. God would never haggle. At last I stamped my foot and said I thought God was mean, and I didn’t want to go to his nasty old petless heaven anyway, and I ran away crying.
My embarrassed mother made me come back and apologize, but my heart wasn’t in it. I detested the minister from that day onward. Furthermore, what I learned about God in Sunday school did little to improve my opinion of him. For instance, why would a purportedly loving and all-powerful father have to make his son die a cruel death before he got willing to forgive people? Why didn’t he just forgive them right off? And if he did agree to forgive them after the son’s death, why was he still sending people to his super-sadistic hell to suffer for all eternity? (I had a Catholic playmate who informed me that everybody in my family would go to hell anyway, because we went to the wrong church. Her parochial-school “sister” said so.)
I was a nuisance in Sunday school. I asked the teacher many questions, but I got no answers, only scoldings. I learned that questioning was evil, and that I must simply believe everything I was told, because that was God’s rule. Worst of all, I would be expected to become a cannibal and consume the actual flesh and blood of poor dead Jesus, whose gory demise was shown to us children in a life-size painting. The whole idea gave me an uncomfortable feeling of nausea.
“If you think you’ve got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics.”
Those words, in a Playboy interview in 1972, were spoken by the great 20th-century community organiser Saul David Alinsky, who was born on January 30, 1909, in a Chicago slum to Russian Jewish immigrant parents.
Alinsky said in the same interview that his parents “were strict orthodox; their whole life revolved around work and synagogue.”
When asked if he was a devout Jew as a boy, Alinsky responded: “I suppose I was – until I was about 12. I was brainwashed, really hooked. But then I got afraid my folks were going to try to turn me into a rabbi, so I went through some pretty rapid withdrawal symptoms and kicked the habit”
Alinsky majored in archaeology at the University of Chicago, but after two years of graduate study he dropped out to work as a criminologist for the state of Illinois. In the mid-1930s, he started working with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and became a close friend of John L. Lewis.
Alinsky shifted from labour to community organising in 1939, focusing first on improving the impoverished slums he grew up in. In 1940, millionaire Marshall Field III provided Alinsky funds to start the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), which grew into a prominent training institute for radical community organisers across the country.
[Faith is not evidence of anything…]
Canadian government kills First Nations girl out of misguided respect for faith
The Canadian government has often treated its indigenous people horribly, including taking kids from their family and sticking them in special residential “Indian schools” where they were forbidden to use their language or learn about their culture, and where they were often horribly abused. I saw one of these schools, now closed, when I was in Kamloops last year for the Imagine No Religion conference. Hearing the story, I was horrified.
So, in an admirable effort to make up for past misdeeds, Canada has made a number of accommodations to the people of the “First Nations”, as they call them. But this time they’ve gone too far, and have failed to remove children from their homes when they should have. These children are ill with cancer, and the government endorses “traditional” methods of healing, which inevitably lead to death. The government’s failure to insist on modern medical treatment for First Nations children has caused the death of one girl, and will soon cause the death of another. As the title of this post indicates, I consider this equivalent to murder, or at least manslaughter, for these deaths are entirely predictable and in many cases were preventable.
If that sounds harsh, it’s because I’m hopping mad over this kind of stuff. Courts in the US and now Canada have for far too long respected parents’ (and brainwashed children’s) desire to reject Western medicine in favor of faith healing or “alternative” (i.e., useless) medicine. In nearly every state in the U.S., parents who refuse medical care for their children on religious grounds get serious legal breaks compared to parents who also reject that care but on non-religious grounds. It’s an unconscionable kowtowing to faith, something I’d expect in America but not in Canada, which has always seemed more sensible (and less religious) to me.
From Greta Christina
So what is it about religion that’s so harmful?
I’ve argued many times that religion is not only mistaken, but does more harm than good. But why do I think that is?…
I’m realizing that everything I’ve ever written about religion’s harm boils down to one thing.
It’s this: Religion is ultimately dependent on belief in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die.
It therefore has no reality check.
And it is therefore uniquely armored against criticism, questioning, and self-correction. It is uniquely armored against anything that might stop it from spinning into extreme absurdity, extreme denial of reality … and extreme, grotesque immorality.
(I can hear the chorus already. “But not all religion is like that! Not all believers are crazy extremists! Some religions adapt to new evidence and changing social mores! It’s not fair to criticize all religion just because some believers do bad things!” I hear you. I’ll get to that at the end, after I make my case.)
The Proof Is Not in the Pudding
The thing that uniquely defines religion, the thing that sets it apart from every other ideology or hypothesis or social network, is the belief in unverifiable supernatural entities. Of course it has other elements — community, charity, philosophy, inspiration for art, etc. But those things exist in the secular world, too. They’re not specific to religion. The thing that uniquely defines religion is belief in supernatural entities. Without that belief, it’s not religion.
And with that belief, the capacity for religion to do harm gets cranked up to an alarmingly high level — because there’s no reality check.
Any other ideology or philosophy or hypothesis about the world is eventually expected to pony up. It’s expected to prove itself true and/or useful, or else correct itself, or else fall by the wayside. With religion, that is emphatically not the case. Because religion is a belief in the invisible and unknowable — and it’s therefore never expected to prove that it’s right, or even show good evidence for why it’s right — its capacity to do harm can spin into the stratosphere…
Full article here…