UN Study: Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination
(Reuters) - In 13 countries around the world, all of them Muslim, people who openly espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam face execution under the law, according to a detailed study issued on Tuesday.
And beyond the Islamic nations, even some of the West’s apparently most democratic governments at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy, it said.
The study, The Freethought Report 2013, was issued by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a global body uniting atheists, agnostics and other religious skeptics, to mark United Nations’ Human Rights Day on Tuesday.
"This report shows that the overwhelming majority of countries fail to respect the rights of atheists and freethinkers although they have signed U.N agreements to treat all citizens equally," said IHEU President Sonja Eggerickx.
“Why go to the Bible [about woman suffrage]? What question was ever settled by the Bible? What question of theology or any other department?
The human mind is greater than any book. The mind sits in judgment on every book. If there be truth in the book, we take it; if error, we discard it. Why refer this to the Bible? In this country, the Bible has been used to support slavery and capital punishment; while in the old countries, it has been quoted to sustain all manner of tyranny and persecution. All reforms are anti-Bible.”—
William Lloyd Garrison, remarks at the 5th national woman’s rights conference in Philadelphia on Oct. 18, 1854. (via deconversionmovement)
The line that stood out for me here was “What question was ever settled by the Bible?" Most of the questions that people have ever thought to be settled by the Bible turned out to be wrong (where the world came from), very wrong (the role of women in society), or very, very wrong (justifications for slavery).
How are you? Things have been quiet here on Faces of Atheists because I got an amazing new job about two and a half months ago that keeps me insanely busy, but I’m still accepting contributions to the blog, so if you haven’t yet, send away! And tell a friend. :)
Just wanted to post a little note saying that I updated the submission guidelines. They’re pretty much exactly the same, but I just wanted to provide a little refresher here:
Thanks for choosing to contribute to this blog. You RULE! Please read the following guidelines before continuing:
—POSITIVITY: I will not post anything that bashes religion or people who are religious.
—QUALITY IMAGE: Please submit a good quality image; nothing blurry, grainy, too small, etc.
—TELL US ABOUT YOU: Please include a bit of information about yourself (examples: name, age, hobbies, career, area(s) of study, likes/dislikes, location, volunteer work, etc.).
—SHORT AND SWEET: You may write as little as 1-2 sentences, but no more than a couple of short paragraphs, please.
—LINKS?: If you’d like to include a link to your personal blog here on Tumblr, feel free to do so. I recommend just setting a click-through link on your submission to avoid your post feeling spam-y, but you’re welcome to include it in the text as well/instead.
—NOTE: Submissions will be added to a queue, so if you don’t see it right away, have patience.
—FROM THE MODERATOR: Thank you SO MUCH for contributing! This blog would not be possible without you. You are amazing.
If anyone has any questions or feedback, please let me know.
One last thing — Faces of Atheists will be turning TWO in just over two months from now. I’ll probably do some sort of give away in celebration, so stay tuned.
Have a wonderful day/night/weekend/holiday season if you celebrate those, and I hope to see some new faces soon. :)
I really hope people will take the time to submit to this project. Especially if you feel like your story helps to refute atheist stereotypes. -DI
Since the early 20th century, with the rise of mass secular education and the diffusion of scientific knowledge through popular media, predictions of the deity’s demise have fallen short, and in some cases—such as in that of the U.S.—religiosity has actually increased. This ratio is changing. According to a 2013 survey of 14,000 people in 13 nations (Germany, France, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Canada, Brazil, India, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S.) that was conducted by the German Bertelsmann Foundation for its Religion Monitor, there is both widespread approval for the separation of church and state, as well as a decline in religiosity over time and across generations.
In response to the statements “Only politicians who believe in God are suitable for public office” and “Leading religious figures should exercise an influence on government decisions,” even in über-religious America only 25 percent agreed with the former and 28 percent with the latter. All other countries reported lower figures (with Spain at or near the bottom at 8 and 13 percent and Germany in the middle at 10 and 21 percent, respectively). Moreover, most of the countries in the survey showed a declining trend in religiosity, especially among the youth. In Spain, for example, 85 percent of respondents older than 45 reported being moderately to very religious, but only 58 percent of those younger than 29 said they were. In Europe in general, only 30 to 50 percent said that religion is important in their own lives….
This week struck me as a particularly exhausting one when it came to that certain brand of provocatively-headlined-but-probably-not-what-you-think-it-is science news that we know and love hate.
As usual, it’s the science media click-machine that’s to blame, which is a polite way of saying that there exists a gaping void of careful, cautious, skeptical, dare I say scientific science writing out there amidst the great internet knowledge machine. It’s desperately hard to get people to read your articles or watch your videos, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to disengage the gravity of reason and drift off into the aether of just-so stories.
PHD Comics has summed up this vicious form of the science news cycle very well:
It’s not all bad, of course. There’s some real diamonds that we can regularly depend on to shine through amid the soiled throngs of pseudointellectual beggars out there, and I, along with others, try to highlight their work regularly. I shall do so again here.
Here, I present two cases of “science things that were badly reported” and some links to better explanations. As usual, the defendants come from that tenuous intersection of neuroscience and behavior, because studying the brain is hard stuff, folks.
1) Mice Can Inherit Memories: No they can’t. Well, maybe they can (although I doubt it), but that’s not at all what this widely-reported paper in Nature Neuroscience says. The poor authors of that study are probably at home, drinking, wondering how, after years of hard work, their paper about how mice may pass on sensitivity to smells got so twisted. Headlines ranged from declaring this the source of human phobias to saying that Assassin’s Creed is based in real science.
What the researchers did was to condition some male mice to associate a smell (cherry blossoms) with a mild electric shock, which is mean, because that’s a nice smell! Naturally, the mice began to avoid the odor. The weird part is that their offspring, even two generations down the line, also seemed to avoid that specific cherry blossom odor, without ever encountering it before (and without their dads showing them). The dads’ noses all had more of the cells that smell that odor, as did the noses of their offspring. This did not happen with female mice and their offspring.
These kind of things aren’t supposed to be possible in a single generation. A mouse dad shouldn’t smell something, become afraid of it, and then be able to pass on a change to his kids. That’s precisely the kind of thing that got Lamarck and his giraffe necks laughed at more than a century ago. But it is possible that these mice were transmitting some sort of epigenetic change.
It’s possible that there was an epigenetic change passed down. But it’s not for sure. Beyond that, the way that statistics are applied to mouse behavior studies make it possible that the differences they see are just due to sample sizes, or not including certain controls, or some other random factor like that the humidity on a particular day happened to make the mice very jumpy. There’s also the fact that there is no known way for nerve cell changes or chemical responses within the olfactory bulb to be communicated to the testes, where sperm are made (there’s literally a blood-testis barrier to prevent that kind of thing).
2) Men and women’s brains are wired differently, therefore men are better at reading maps. That’s almost a verbatim headline from this news outlet. It speaks of “hardwired differences” (our brains are not hardwired) and is loaded with brainsplaining and neurosexism. This story is frustrating notsomuch because of the science, which is so-so, but because it is being misapplied by the media to reinforce cutsie-pie stories about what men are good at and what women are good at and never the twain shall meet and boy is it funny how men and women argue over getting lost?! GUFFAW!
Read this instead: At Discover, Neuroskeptic explains why the spatial resolution of the techniques used are like making a road atlas, while on the moon, using a pair of binoculars, and how the only real difference here may be that men’s brains are just slightly bigger than women’s (which doesn’t account for any noticeable difference in abilities, but can mess with scans a lot). And if you’d like a nice introduction to the idea of neurosexism and pigeonholing gender-based brain research into outdated social molds, might I suggest you read this article at The Conversation?
The fact is that men and women are mostly the same when it comes to their brains, but “Everyone can probably become pretty good at reading maps whether or not they are male or female, suggests common sense, not needing to be backed up by neuroscience” doesn’t make a very catchy headline.
None of this is to say that any of the results presented in the scientific papers are patently or provably false. But as we communicate the vagaries of Science In Progress, we must include the Don’t Knows and the Possiblys and all the other fine (and frustrating) forms of cautious optimism. It doesn’t kill the excitement. It just comes with the territory. I read it on a map somewhere.
“If you think that it would be impossible to improve upon the Ten Commandments as a statement of morality, you really owe it to yourself to read some other scriptures. Once again, we need look no further than the Jains: Mahavira, the Jain patriarch, surpassed the morality of the Bible with a single sentence: “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.” Imagine how different our world might be if the Bible contained this as its central precept. Christians have abused, oppressed, enslaved, insulted, tormented, tortured, and killed people in the name of God for centuries, on the basis of a theologically defensible reading of the Bible.”—
^THIS. If you think the bible is in any way the most superior moral document, you really owe it to yourself to read some other scriptures. Non violence, forgiveness, charity: none of these concepts originated in the bible and only pure ignorance of other traditions would have you think so. Morality is a human project.
Massachusetts Governor Issues Proclamation Declaring This Sunday ‘Humanist Community Day’
Whereas December 8, 2013 marks the first-ever public event at the Humanist Hub, a center supporting community life for Humanists, atheists, agnostics and the nonreligious in Cambridge and beyond; and
Whereas the Humanist Hub of the Humanist Community at Harvard is the first such center for Humanist community life in the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and
Whereas this landmark event is part of a larger movement to build inclusive and inspiring, multi-cultural and multi-generational Humanist communities to serve the rapidly growing nonreligious population across the nation, while partnering with neighboring religious communities in acts of service to those in need; and
Whereas Humanists have made profound contributions to American history and society as a whole through their passionate promotion of universal human values such as reason, compassion, integrity, equality, and justice; and
Whereas the Humanist community may be viewed, from the perspective of the government and people of the Commonwealth, as one among the many ethical communities of conscience, striving together toward the common good;
Now, therefore, I, Deval L. Patrick, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, do hereby proclaim December 8, 2013 to be
HUMANIST COMMUNITY DAY
And urge all the citizens of the Commonwealth to welcome the Humanist Hub into the mosaic of our broader community, acknowledging, in the spirit of friendship and respect, that its members can contribute positively to the Commonwealth’s proud tradition of pluralism.