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.

"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

 

Islamic State: What do young British Muslims think about ISIS and the Caliphate? BBC News

Man Gets 80 Lashes For Electricity Blasphemy


BEIRUT: Islamist militiamen in Syria’s Hama province have publicly lashed a man for committing blasphemy when he cursed the electricity situation, pro-opposition websites said Tuesday.

The accused, identified as Mutasim Dahrouj, was removing illegal connections to the electricity grid in the town of Latamneh, Hama, when he uttered a standard curse, which translates literally as “may the religion of electricity be damned” (yilaan din al-kahraba).

The court ordered that he receive 80 lashes, have his head shaved and be imprisoned for three days.

A video on YouTube purports to show the man being punished, and displays copies of the Shariah court paperwork connected to the case. A commentator on YouTube objected to the punishment, noting that “electricity doesn’t have a religion.”

(Source: dailystar.com.lb)

Saudi Arabia attempts to silence NGO at Human Rights Council

Saudi Arabia repeatedly interrupted an American NGO at an extraordinary meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, as the organisation read out a statement criticising their imprisoning of a man on charges of atheism and running a liberal online forum.

The Center for Inquiry, a US non-profit advocating secular and humanist values, was stopped from speaking on three occasions by the delegation from Saudi Arabia who protested against their raising of specific incidents of alleged human rights abuse.

The case raised was that of Raif Badawi, co-founder of the Saudi Arabian Free Liberals website, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a $266,000 fine in May. He was convicted of violating Islamic values and slurring Saudi Arabia’s religious symbols, which drew the ire of Amnesty International who described the ruling as “outrageous”.

The Center criticised Badawi’s conviction at the Council, saying “Mr Badawi is a prisoner of conscience who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression,” which prompted the Saudi delegation to interrupt the statement….

Sudanese court orders release of woman sentenced to death for changing faith

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Sudanese court on Monday ordered the release of a 27-year-old woman who was sentenced to death last month for converting from Islam to Christianity, the state news agency said.

The case of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, who is married to a Christian American, triggered an international outcry. Britain had last month summoned the Sudanese charge d’affaires in protest at the sentencing.

"The appeal court ordered the release of Mariam Yahya and the cancellation of the (previous) court ruling," Sudan’s SUNA news agency said. A government official had told Reuters on May 31 that Sudanese officials were working to release Ibrahim.

Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohaned Mostafa said she has already been released and sent “to an unknown house to stay at for her protection and security.”

"Her family had been threatened before and we are worried that someone might try to harm her," Mostafa told Reuters.

Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes for what it deemed her adultery for marrying a Christian. She gave birth in prison to a daughter, her second child by her American husband Daniel Wani.

Saudi Justice Minister: ‘Hands off Islamic law’

Justice Minister Mohammed Al-Eissa has denounced international rights groups for attacking the Kingdom’s judiciary, saying laws in this country are based on divine precepts contained in the Holy Qur’an.

godlessmen:

"The extremist are the tail that wags the whole dog." Hitchens on the world’s reaction to the Danish Cartoons/Murders.

So called moderates support the whole enterprise of extremism by shutting down criticism of religion.

Iowa Governor Signs Proclamation Inviting All Iowans to Turn from Their Wicked Ways and Embrace Christianity

This past week, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation that calls on all Iowans to embrace Christianity according to a specific Bible verse

Atheists Classified As Terrorists Under New Saudi Arabian Laws

Atheists are being defined as terrorists under a raft of new Saudi Arabian laws, a report from Human Rights Watch states.

The new laws are accompanied by a series of related royal decrees which appear to criminalise virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism.

“Saudi authorities have never tolerated criticism of their policies, but these recent laws and regulations turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

Regulations from the Interior Ministry cite “terrorism” provisions to include: “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

Court orders Louisiana school to end religious discrimination against non-Christian students

After a Buddhist student in Louisiana was ridiculed and harassed by his teacher for failing to embrace the Christian faith, a U.S. District Court has ruled the teacher’s behavior, and the school board’s decision to defend it, constituted a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The outrageous abuse of a Buddhist sixth-grader enrolled in Negreet High School was just the tip of the iceberg of a pattern and culture of religious discrimination and harassment against non-Christian students and their families in the public schools of Sabine Parish, Louisiana.

Under the court order, the school board must end official prayers during class and school events, refrain from disparaging any particular faith, and prohibit staff from teaching creationism and other biblical doctrine as fact.

According to reports, teachers at Negreet High School in Sabine Parish, Louisiana, previously preached Creationism, mocked the theory of evolution, routinely led their students in Christian prayer, gave extra credit for Christian responses to assignments, and actively questioned or derided the religious beliefs of non-Christian students and parents.

To ensure that the order is carried out properly and that the constitutional violations do not recur, the board will also conduct in-service training for staff on First Amendment issues and the effects of religious discrimination on students.

——————————
Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that staff training on First Amendment issues and the effects of religious discrimination on students. I imagine those teachers being very difficult students.

[Islamic group] kills 59 children at Nigerian boarding school

Gunmen from Islamist group Boko Haram shot or burned to death 59 pupils in a boarding school in north-east Nigeria overnight, a hospital official and security forces said on Tuesday.

"Some of the students’ bodies were burned to ashes," police commissioner Sanusi Rufai said of the attack on the federal government college of Buni Yadi, a secondary school in Yobe state, near the state’s capital city of Damaturu.

Bala Ajiya, an official at the Specialist Hospital Damaturu, said the death toll had risen to 59. “Fresh bodies have been brought in. More bodies were discovered in the bush after the students who had escaped with bullet wounds died from their injuries,” he said…

…The Islamists, whose struggle for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria has killed thousands and made them the biggest threat to security in Africa’s top oil producer, are increasingly preying on the civilian population.

Militants from Boko Haram, whose name means “western education is sinful” in the northern Hausa language, have frequently attacked schools in the past. A similar attack in June in the nearby village of Mamudo left 22 students dead.

They have killed more than 300 people this month, mostly civilians, including in two attacks last week that killed around 100 each, one in which militants razed a whole village and shot panicked residents as they tried to flee…

Iran unveils finger amputating machine for use on thieves


Photographs appearing to show a blindfolded man having his fingers severed by the mechanical amputation device have been published by an official Iranian press agency.

According to the INSA news service, the prisoner used to demonstrate the brutal contraption had been convicted of theft and adultery by a court in Shiraz last Wednesday.

A series of pictures show three masked officials, clad entirely in black, holding the man’s right hand in a vice while one turns a wheel operating the guillotine in the manner of a rotary saw.

In none of the four closely cropped images does the bearded prisoner’s expression register pain, suggesting that he may have been drugged.

Following the public amputation, Ali Alghasi, the Shiraz district’s public prosecutor, announced sentences against criminals are to become increasingly severe.

This warning, issued without explanation, may be an attempt by authorities to deter public protest ahead of June’s general elections.

The Iranian government’s deplorable human rights record has been well documented.

Public execution, including death by stoning, and torture, including flogging and amputation, are routine.

Amnesty International led international outcry over the execution of 21 year-old Ali Naderi earlier this month for the alleged murder of an elderly woman killed during the course of a burglary – a crime he committed when he was 17.

It is illegal under international law to execute anyone for a crime committed as a minor.

Ironically, they still have plenty of crime, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of severe punishment in deterring crime.

(Source: telegraph.co.uk)

confrontingbabble-on:

John Fugelsang on the Catholic position on women clergy…

"No knobs…no jobs"

*****

See The five nasty traits all religious fundamentalists share…

1. Hate gays

2. Hate  women

3. Their superiority over all other religions

4. Violence is OK if fundamentalists do it

5. Sex hangups

Watch the excellent commentary (transcript below)  http://current.com/shows/viewpoint/videos/john-fugelsang-the-five-nasty-traits-all-religious-fundamentalists-share/

From the July 8, 2013, edition of “Viewpoint.”

“It’s those hardcore true believers, addicted to believing they’re always on God’s side. Those are the ones making planet Earth so complicated for the rest of us — be you secular, atheist or religious. And truth be told, the fires of most of our conflicts today are fanned most ferociously by the fundamentalist wings of every religion. And they all hate each other, and they don’t care how many of us get killed in their cross-fire.” —John Fugelsang

*****

Transcript:

"…it’s interesting to compare the right wing religious fundamentalists of America to the right wing religious fundamentalists of the Middle East because they’ve actually got a lot in common.

It’s those hardcore true believers addicted to believing they’re always on God’s side; those are the ones making planet Earth so complicated for the rest of us, whether secular, atheist or religious. So truth be told, the fires of most of our conflicts today are fanned most ferociously by the fundamentalist wings of every religion, and they all hate each other and they don’t care how many of us get killed in their cross fires.

And there’s really five little things that unite all of these different fundamentalists, no matter what your religion.

    The Gay Thing – No matter what your faith, how conservative your religion is – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu – the more you believe God hates gay people, which is obviously why He created so many gay people across the world, throughout all of recorded human history – God can’t stand gays, but can’t stop creating them, can’t seem to smite them, and needs you to clean up His mess. Again, the more conservative your faith is, whatever the religion is, this is what you have in common.
    The Woman Hating Thing – Liberal and moderate religious sects of all faiths honor and extol women, but the ultra-orthodox in many faiths have never run out of reasons why women are just not quite as good as men. Christianity is no exception. If you follow the rules in the bible, women are cursed, can’t speak in temple, are unclean when they have a child and if it’s a female child they’re unclean for twice as long, and have monthly menstruation and painful childbirth because Eve got suckered by a snake. And we all know the Vatican policy on women priests – no knob, no job.
    The third thing that links fundamentalists of all faiths is The Superiority Thing. The more conservative you are in your religion, the more you get to look down on other religions as inferior. If you believe that your religion and yours alone is the one true devotion, then you believe you speak for God and if you speak for God, then you’re not going to sit down and negotiate with Satan or an infidel on things like school curriculum, women’s rights or gay marriage. Never mind that you all allegedly worship the same God. Some people just think you’re going to hell because your parents put you in the wrong God-man club.
    The fourth trait all fundamentalists share, Violence is okay if we do it. In the Old Testament, God really likes smiting. He smites people all over the place; that’s how He solves his problems, that’s how He knows He’s a man. The modern fundamentalist religious person knows it’s okay to overlook whatever their holy book says about killing people because they know they have a ‘Get Out of Hell Free’ card. And of course, if God or Allah or Jehovah wanted anybody dead, He’d probably just smite them Himself.
    And the fifth trait of every fundie is The Endless Sex Hang-Ups – gays enjoying sex, women enjoying sex, young people – animals enjoying sex. It’s all evil and God obviously hard-wired humans to enjoy the mating process because He really hates the mating process He invented. In the Christian faith, Jesus [has] not too many sex hang-ups, but St. Paul, the PR guy? Lot of ‘em. And if God really hated sex, He probably would have found a more boring means of reproduction.

______________________

The religious fundamentalists go to great lengths to separate themselves from each other, citing doctrine and differing statements of faith. However, Fugelsang has shown in less than five minutes that when you cut to the core, most of the fundamental religions are eerily similar.

As Fugelsang said at the end of his video,

    “There are the hardcore religious fundies of every faith and the rest of us, and that’s probably the greatest thing religious fundamentalists have in common. They don’t think they’re better than you … they think God thinks they’re better than you.”

transcript from http://www.goddiscussion.com/113107/what-religious-fundamentalists-have-in-common/