In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Manifesto for Secularism

Our era is marked by the rise of the religious-Right – not because of a “religious revival” but rather due to the rise of far-Right political movements and states using religion for political supremacy. This rise is a direct consequence of neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism and the social policies of communalism and cultural relativism. Universalism, secularism and citizenship rights have been abandoned and segregation of societies and “communities” based on ethnicity, religion and culture have become the norm.

The Islamic State (formerly ISIS), the Saudi regime, Hindutva (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) in India, the Christian-Right in the US and Europe, Bodu Bala Sena in Sri Lanka, Haredim in Israel, AQMI and MUJAO in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria are examples of this.

For many decades now, people in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Diaspora have been the first victims but also on the frontlines of resistance against the religious-Right (whether religious states, organisations and movements) and in defence of secularism and universal rights, often at great risk to their lives.

We call on people everywhere to stand with us to establish an international front against the religious-Right and for secularism. We demand:

•Complete separation of religion from the state. Secularism is a fundamental right.
•Separation of religion from public policy, including the educational system, health care and scientific research.
•Abolition of religious laws in the family, civil and criminal codes. An end to discrimination against and persecution of LGBT, religious minorities, women, freethinkers, ex-Muslims, and others.
•Freedom of religion and atheism and freedom to criticise religions. Belief as a private affair.
•Equality between women and men and citizenship rights for all.

(The Manifesto for Secularism was adopted at the 11-12 October International Conference on the Relgious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights. The Conference called on people everywhere to join the International Front for Secularism and strengthen a human alternative to the religious-Right.)

(Source: secularconference.com)

7 Family Issues Pope Francis Should — But Won’t — Discuss

….I wish I could be cautiously optimistic that this “open” dialogue will bring about significant policy changes to an anachronistic institution, but the Vatican is not known for major changes. Here are some issues we won’t hear bishops discuss with Pope Francis, but might hear from the Nuns on the Bus or countless other Catholic women — if they were invited to participate.

1. The Church should stop treating women as second-class people, and not just in family issues. Women should have the same rights and privileges as men in the Church. We can only dream that one day there will be a Pope Frances. At this point, women cannot even be priests.

2. It’s time to end the Church’s celibacy requirement for priests and nuns. While promoting natural law, the Church fails to acknowledge how unnatural celibacy is. Here’s a novel idea: Shouldn’t priests be viewed as role models with families, rather than as unquestionable messengers who act as necessary intermediaries to God?

3. The Church should give high priority to eliminating family poverty caused by having too many children. Provide evidence-based sex education for young people, especially since abstinence-only programs have such a high failure rate. Permit abortion under some circumstances and encourage contraception. Pregnant teenagers are not ready to start families of two and are likely to drop out of school. Education for women is a primary method of reducing poverty.

4. The Church should recognize that masturbation is not a sin. It is natural and healthy safe sex, giving harmless pleasure to individuals without leading to unwanted pregnancies or venereal disease.

5. Regarding gays, Pope Francis, move away from “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” If two responsible and mature people love each other, are in a committed relationship, and would like to marry, you should be willing to bless such a union. And please stop telling people that the purpose of marriage is to have children, since you sometimes perform marriages for heterosexual couples who are incapable of having children.

6. Please recognize that it is degrading to have celibate male priests passing themselves off as experts on sexual advice for women, men, and children. Male leaders in the Catholic Church are obsessed with sex. Morality should not be viewed through the narrow prism of sexual conduct. Ethical and moral behavior is about treating everyone with respect. If there is any issue that is none of the Church’s business, it is the private sexual acts of consenting adults. Church leaders claim to be humble, but their treatment of women and people who don’t share their antiquated beliefs is the height of arrogance.

7. Don’t expect those outside the Catholic faith to behave like those in the faith. Stay out of politics and don’t prevent others from following the dictates of their conscience….

Full article here.

Justice Antonin Scalia: Constitution allows religion to be favored over secularism

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a conservative Christian audience Wednesday that secular arguments about the public role of religion were “absurd.”

“I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over non-religion,” Scalia told a crowd at Colorado Christian University.

How to Defeat ISIS

…Well-meaning Muslims claim that these Islamists have simply ‘misinterpreted’ the Quran. But have they?

As I wrote in a previous post, ISIS’s interpretation of the Quran is a very plausible one and this explains why ISIS has no trouble using the Quran as a recruiting tool.

Even according to Yusuf Ali, the very much mainstream and respected interpreter of the Quran, fighting for the cause of ‘truth’ is a duty for Muslims under a ‘rightly guided Imam.’ The definition of ‘truth’ and ‘rightly guided Imam,’ unfortunately, is not that clear cut.

For those of us who have been indoctrinated with the idea that the Quran is God’s literal and most perfect word to man, the Quranic commands for true believers to wage war against ‘oppressors’ and ‘hypocrites’ can cause a tugging at the heartstrings.

Still, plenty of Muslims have condemned ISIS while angrily claiming that they have ‘misinterpreted’ the Quran to justify their barbarity. This is not surprising, since the vast majority of Muslims are decent people who find the brutality of ISIS abhorrent just like everyone else. Muslim leaders like Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf have proclaimed that ISIS and other Islamists have got it all ‘wrong’ by referring to some peaceful verses in the Quran. Unfortunately these proclamations haven’t dissuaded ISIS or the wannabe Jihadis in the west. After all the ISIS claim is that they are the ones following the ‘true’ Islam.

We can continue to be in denial and claim that ISIS’s ideology has nothing to do with Islam, hoping to dissuade the jihadis and silence the anti-Muslim bigots. Thing is, with the Quran at so many people’s fingertips these days, neither the jihadis nor the anti-Muslim bigots are believing this anymore and we are simply hurting our own credibility.

If we want to really solve the problem and maybe even regain some credibility, we need leaders who are willing to put forth the idea that we have to change the way we regard the Quran. Treating the Quran as God’s perfect and literal word to man is creating too much havoc.

Only when the notions of Quranic infallibility and inerrancy are challenged, will it be possible for believing Muslims to openly admit that according to literalist interpretations at least, violent and hateful passages exist in the Quran: passages that call for fighting those who don’t believe in Allah, that support ISIS’s ideology and help them recruit young Muslims like Aqsa Mahmood.

After all, only when a critical mass of Muslims propagate the idea that the Quran may not be God’s literal and perfect word to man and denounce the violent and hateful verses in the Quran that support ISIS’s ideology, will we successfully counter ISIS’s propaganda and stop the flow of wannabe jihadis crossing that Turkish border.

Until then, families like the Sotloffs and the Mahmoods and countless others in the Middle East and elsewhere will continue to suffer.

Stewart Blows Up on GOP Over Climate Change: ‘Pushing a Million Pounds of Idiot Up a Mountain’

Jon Stewart on Monday slammed a U.S House hearing regarding climate change, comparing the Republican-led session to “pushing a million pounds of idiot up a mountain.”

The Wednesday hearing featured testimony from John Holdren, President Barack Obama‘s adviser on science and technology. Stewart showed clips of Republicans Steve Stockman of Texas, Dana Rohrabacher of California and Larry Bucshon of Indiana doubting the effects of climate change.

Stewart labeled Holdren the hearing’s “Sysyphus, charged with the impossible task of pushing a million pounds of idiot up a mountain.”

“How far back to the elementary school curriculum do we have to go to get someone on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology caught up?” Stewart said. “Do we have to bring out the paper-machet and the baking soda so you can make a volcano?”

Click through for video.

besound:

policymic:

Watch: 'They Daily Show' exposes birth control-penis pump double standard

Although the birth control mandate has been hotly debated and contested for its burden on taxpayers, Medicare has spent $872 million on penis pumps in the last five years alone. Viagra has also received $819 million and Cyalis more than $782 million. But you’ll never hear those numbers being debated anywhere.

Read more and watch the full video

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What world is this?

(Source: sandandglass)

gehayi:

numbledore:

bootyscientist:

descentintotyranny:

Anti-trans trolling spree forces Wikipedia to ban U.S. House staffers for third time
Aug. 21 2014
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, has once again blocked all computers from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to stop malicious edits to popular pages on the site.
According to The Hill, Wikipedia instituted the ban on Wednesday night after users operating from the House IP address made a series of anti-trans edits to the page for Netflix series Orange is the New Black.
Anonymous users operating from the Republican-led House were persistently re-editing the page to slur trans actress Laverne Cox by mis-gendering her mentions on the show’s page. For instance, they changed Cox’s description from “real transgender woman” to “real man pretending to be a woman.”
One user in particular went on an anti-trans editing spree this week, changing entries on multiple pages related to transgenderism until Wikipedia administrators were forced to step in.
“An obvious transphobe is using this IP to edit the article on transphobia,” the Hill quoted one Wikipedia user as saying.
“I have no problem with Congressional staffers editing Wikipedia,” said another user to the anti-trans editor. “I have a problem only with YOU vandalizing Wikipedia.”
The person using the IP address responded — without revealing their identity — that the malicious edits were in fact “official business” endorsed by a member of the House. Their changes, they said, were intended to bring “fairness” to the discussion.
Read More

and these are the fucking children that run our country. this is despicable.

Goddddddd fuckingggf DaMMIT

On the plus side, the admins are not putting up with this bullshit. They stepped in. They said, “No, you can’t do that. We don’t care if you work for a Representative. We don’t care if you *are* one. If you want to be a bigoted troll, then GTFO. You’re not doing it here.”

gehayi:

numbledore:

bootyscientist:

descentintotyranny:

Anti-trans trolling spree forces Wikipedia to ban U.S. House staffers for third time

Aug. 21 2014

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, has once again blocked all computers from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to stop malicious edits to popular pages on the site.

According to The Hill, Wikipedia instituted the ban on Wednesday night after users operating from the House IP address made a series of anti-trans edits to the page for Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

Anonymous users operating from the Republican-led House were persistently re-editing the page to slur trans actress Laverne Cox by mis-gendering her mentions on the show’s page. For instance, they changed Cox’s description from “real transgender woman” to “real man pretending to be a woman.”

One user in particular went on an anti-trans editing spree this week, changing entries on multiple pages related to transgenderism until Wikipedia administrators were forced to step in.

“An obvious transphobe is using this IP to edit the article on transphobia,” the Hill quoted one Wikipedia user as saying.

“I have no problem with Congressional staffers editing Wikipedia,” said another user to the anti-trans editor. “I have a problem only with YOU vandalizing Wikipedia.”

The person using the IP address responded — without revealing their identity — that the malicious edits were in fact “official business” endorsed by a member of the House. Their changes, they said, were intended to bring “fairness” to the discussion.

Read More

and these are the fucking children that run our country. this is despicable.

Goddddddd fuckingggf DaMMIT

On the plus side, the admins are not putting up with this bullshit. They stepped in. They said, “No, you can’t do that. We don’t care if you work for a Representative. We don’t care if you *are* one. If you want to be a bigoted troll, then GTFO. You’re not doing it here.”

If ISIS Is Not Islamic, then the Inquisition Was Not Catholic: There is no such thing as 'true' religion

…ISIS has an extreme and fundamentalist interpretation of Muslim doctrine. But in exactly the same way, dogma about the immorality of abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex, and divorce have become part of Catholicism. They are theological interpretations of scripture that appeal to some people’s sense of morality. Others disagree. Whose faith is “truer”?

In the end, there is no “true” religion in the factual sense, for there is no good evidence supporting their claims to truth. Nor are there “true” religions in the moral sense. Every faith justifies itself and its practices by appeal to authority, revelation, and dogma. There are just some religions we like better than others because of their practical consequences. If that’s what we mean by “true,” we should just admit it. There’s no shame in that, for it’s certainly the case that societies based on some religions are more dysfunctional than others. Morality itself is neither objectively true nor false, but at bottom rests on subjective preferences: the “oughts” that come from what we see as the consequences of behaving one way versus another.

By all means let us say that ISIS is a strain of Islam that is barbaric and dysfunctional, but let us not hear any nonsense that it’s a “false religion.” ISIS, like all religious movements, is based on faith; and faith, which is belief in the absence of convincing evidence, isn’t true or false, but simply irrational.

godlessmen:

Rick Santorum Says Secularism Is A Religion & Should Be Banned From Public Schools

Wow. I forgot what an affront to reason Rick Santorum is.

5 Successful People Who Everyone Forgets Are Exposed Frauds

Making a career out of ripping people off takes a special kind of asshole. But to make a career out of defrauding the general public, get exposed as a fraud, and then keep right on defrauding people as if nothing ever happened takes a special kind of asshole with balls of industrial steel. Either that, or a sociopathic lack of self-awareness. Here are five people who just can’t stop making shit up (and are inexplicably rewarded for it).

Fox News’ No. 1 fear: Atheists

In a recent online video for Crossfire, CNN political pundit and self-proclaimed atheist S.E. Cupp claimed conservative atheists are “better” than liberal atheists, and said she does not believe the “myth” that conservatism is “hostile” to atheism. “In fact, I’d go so far as to say conservatism is far more intellectually honest and respectful of atheism than liberalism has been,” she said.

Wait, what?

Cupp says she believes it is atheists who are disseminating “the idea that they are somehow disenfranchised or left out of the political process,” but that has not been her experience as a conservative.

Now, CNN is not Fox News, but she acts like she has never heard of the Republican Party’s media arm: Fox News.

For the past few years, Fox News and its right-wing talking heads have waged a relentless war on atheism. Their annual war on Christmas spoof-ganza is their reverse victimhood effort to convince viewers that America’s godless community is coming to take away your toys and your right to say, “Merry Christmas.” In other words, bah humbug.

Comparing atheists to Dr. Seuss’ Grinch is one thing, but on Wednesday Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asserted that Christianity should be kept in schools because Islamic militants in Iraq were persecuting Christians. Ipso facto, atheists are as dangerous as al-Qaeda, which is exactly what they want their conservative audience to believe without Fox News having to actually say it.

After reading a select few comments from viewers who accused atheists of demanding to have more rights than Christians, Hasselbeck connected the situation to violence in Iraq. “You know, in light of what’s going on in the world and the persecution of Christians right now, how close do we want to get to eliminating religious freedom in the globe?” she asked.

It’s so accidently Orwellian it’s almost adorable. Or more likely she was reading from a script handed down to her from the string-pullers high above. The only way she could’ve been less subtle was if she said, “Some people say atheists are terrorists.”….

..On Fox News, Obama is coming for your guns; Madonna is coming for your straight kids; immigrants are coming for your jobs; liberals are coming for your way of life; and atheists are coming for your Bibles..

…Since atheists represent such a small percentage of the population, and an even smaller percentage of both the conservative base and the network’s audience, it’s a no-brainer to blame the decline of American civilization on atheists who wish to take away school prayer, rather than talk about problems whose solutions require a pro-government response i.e. safety nets, regulation, workers’ rights, and environmental protection.

Cleverly, Fox News conflates atheism with big government i.e. secular government officials want to take away your religious freedom. The narrative becomes: atheists are bad, the government is atheists, and therefore the government is not part of the solution, the government is the problem….