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."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
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.
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.)
….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.