Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"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

 

Jews ordered to register in east Ukraine

Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website….

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.

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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.

Missouri lawmakers introduce ‘right to refuse service’ religious freedom bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — While Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer deliberates the fate of her state’s anti-gay religious freedom bill, legislation was filed on Monday in the Missouri Senate that would allow Missouri business owners to cite religious beliefs as a legal justification for refusing to provide service.

Sen. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) sponsored the legislation, which states that a governmental authority shall not substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion unless the government demonstrates that it has a compelling interest.

“We’re trying to protect Missourians from attacks on their religious freedom,” Wallingford told the Kansas City Star…

AZ Senate Passes ‘Right to Discriminate’ Bill

This afternoon, on a party-line 17-13 vote, Republicans in the Arizona Senate bucked the national trend and gave final approval to SB 1062, a GOP-led bill that would create a special “right” to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religion.

Under the bill, which was introduced by Republican State Senator Steve Yarbrough, individuals and businesses would be granted the legal right to refuse services to people or groups if they claimed that doing so would “substantially burden” their freedom of religion.

In interviews with local media, Yarbrough made it perfectly clear that the specific purpose of this bill is to legitimize discrimination against the LGBT community. But during today’s nearly two-hour-long debate, Yarbrough took a different tack, claiming that the basic rights of LGBT people victimize anti-LGBT Christians.

"This bill is not about allowing discrimination. This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith."

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Soup Kitchen Invites Everyone to Volunteer… Unless You’re an Atheist

If someone wants to volunteer to help the needy, why wouldn’t you welcome them in? Well, the group Upstate Atheists attempted to volunteer for the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen but were turned away because… they’re atheists. And in case the turndown wasn’t clear enough, the director of the soup kitchen said atheists are banned from joining them.

You would figure that atheists joining a soup kitchen to help the less fortunate would be embraced by good Christians, but Lou Landrum, the executive director of the Spartanburg Soup Kitchen, made it clear kindness and goodwill for all does NOT apply to nonbelievers.

Lou Landrum… told the Herald-Journal she would resign from her job before she let atheists volunteer and be a “disservice to this community.”

“This is a ministry to serve God” she said. “We stand on the principles of God. Do they (atheists) think that our guests are so ignorant that they don’t know what an atheist is? Why are they targeting us? They don’t give any money. I wouldn’t want their money.”

Her objection to the dirty, godless money did not deter the Upstate Atheists from doing good works regardless, and they created care packages to give away to homeless people across the street from the soup kitchen, raising over $2000 for their cause.

(Source: mediaite.com)

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Protestors Smash Bus Windows In Beit Shemesh, Israel


Ultra-Orthodox Jewish protestors attacked three buses in Beit Shemesh, a city 30 miles west of Jerusalem, in response to the arrest of a couple who reportedly asked a female passenger to move from the front of a bus to the back, which she did, according to The Associated Press.

Though ultra-Orthodox Judaism requires men and women to be separated in public, gender segregation is a voluntary practice on public buses. The issue is a heated one. Reuters noted recently that some Israeli lawmakers have called for public gender segregation to be abolished throughout the country.

According to Israeli news outlet Hareetz, the disruption began this week when one woman passenger approached another woman sitting at the front of a bus and told her to move to the back. After the bus driver reported the incident to local police, two arrests were made: The woman who had asked the passenger to move was taken into custody, as was the woman’s husband. Protestors wielding hammers smashed the windows of the bus where the incident took place and attacked two other buses in the area, reported Hareetz.

Tensions are high between the ultra-Orthodox Jews who reside in Beit Shemesh and those who are secular or modern Orthodox Jews, largely because of disagreements surrounding women, according to The Associated Press.

Protests erupted in 2011 after a group of ultra-Orthodox men spat on an 8-year-old girl and called her a whore as she walked to school in her uniform.

In early 2012, a group of ultra-Orthodox men attacked a woman in Beit Shemesh as she was hanging up posters. The men pelted the woman with stones and slashed her car tires.

The prevalence of these types of attacks against women in the area have given rise to a movement of radicalized Orthodox women in Beit Shemesh. The New Republic notes in a cover story this week that women in the area are becoming increasingly feminist: “They have decided that they won’t tolerate abuse anymore. Their quest for justice has thrown them into the arms of unlikely allies, feminist activists from the reform and conservative movements.”

(Source: The Huffington Post)

confrontingbabble-on:

Protect people…from people with religious beliefs…and who believe that their beliefs must be imposed…on everyone…

confrontingbabble-on:

Protect people…from people with religious beliefs…and who believe that their beliefs must be imposed…on everyone…

Nipples are Nipples: NYC Lifts Discriminatory Topless Ban

Topless Women in Public Not Breaking the Law Says NYPD

Ladies of New York , you are free to walk bare-breasted through the city! New York City’s 34,000 police officers have been instructed that, should they encounter a woman in public who is shirtless but obeying the law, they should not arrest her. This is a good step towards gender parity in public spaces.

This decision means that breast exposure is not considered public lewdness, indecent exposure, or disorderly conduct. It also notes that, should a crowd form around a topless woman, the officer should instruct the crowd to disperse and then respond appropriately if it does not. Relative coverage is no longer a factor.

This policy shift comes after several years of litigation and protest. In the 1992 case People v. Ramona Santorelli and Mary Lou Schloss, the New York Court of Appeals ruled in favor of two women who were arrested with five others for exposing their breasts in a Rochester park, holding the law void as discriminatory. The ruling was put to the test in 2005, when Jill Coccaro bared her breasts on Delancey Street in New York, citing the 1992 decision, and was detained for twelve hours. She subsequently successfully sued the city for $29,000.

In 2007, Go Topless, a national organization supporting gender equality in shirtlessness laws, established Go Topless Day. Dozens of women protest – often topless – in thirty cities around the United States, promoting equal rights to be shirtless. Protests usually include chants of “Free your breasts. Free your minds” and a song “Let ‘em Breathe” to the tune of the Beatles’ “Let it Be.”

While some who have witnessed these events have suggested that “[t]his is extreme liberalism and why America’s in decline” or “[i]t’s degrading to women,” others have been supportive. One man even said he would encourage his wife to join them.

Though bare-breasted women might shock the sensibilities of some in the public, it is encouraging to see the police responding positively to gender bias, even on such a seemingly small scale. After all, no one thinks twice about a man shirtless on a summer day. However, the female nipple or chest is still considered “lewd.” By reminding its officers of this, the NYPD is publicly declaring that it will no longer perpetuate unconstitutional gender discrimination, a standard to which all law enforcement should be held and a decision for which it should be applauded.

(Source: policymic.com)

Instant Classic: From the SCOTUS transcript on oral arguments about same-sex marriage

wilwheaton:

bostonreview:

JUSTICE SCALIA: When did it become unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriage? Was it 1791? 1868?

TED OLSON: When did it become unconstitutional to ban interracial marriage?

JUSTICE SCALIA: Don’t try to answer my question with your own question.

Scalia is such a pig.

Atheist cop sues after being demoted to car washer for refusing to pray

whatwouldtylerdo:

A 14-year veteran police officer from San Juan, Puerto Rico sued his bosses on Friday, alleging that he was reassigned from police work to washing cars and relaying messages when he refused to participate in a compulsory Christian prayer.

The complaint (PDF) alleges that officer Alvin…

Discrimination against nonbelievers in America is so overt and widespread that most of us are completely desensitized to it.

If you’re a rational American – religious or nonreligious – you probably roll your eyes when you hear fundamentalist preachers and right-wing politicians rant in the name of God whenever a major tragedy occurs. But do you stop to consider that their comments directly disparage nonbelievers? If these preachers and politicians directly attacked Hindus, Jews, or Muslims the way they attack atheists-humanists, they would be quickly called out for their hateful prejudice. So why should their anti-secular venom be tolerated?

These statements outrage most rational Americans, both religious and nonreligious, but many still overlook the blatant prejudice.

Atheists and humanists find it frustrating that statements such as those of Huckabee, Dobson, and Gingrich are almost never criticized by religious liberals for promoting a hateful prejudice against nonbelievers (who are already the most disliked and distrusted minority in the country).

Let’s be clear about something: Huckabee and company, with very little ambiguity, are claiming that those who live without God-belief are directly or indirectly responsible for violence and moral decline. This is discriminatory, contrary to the pluralistic values of modern society, and provably false.

It’s great that many Americans, even those who are religious, find the statements of Huckabee and company objectionable, but it’s unfortunate that the objections focus on the wrong issue. Rather than argue about whether God is jealous and vindictive or loving and compassionate (or at least in addition to that argument), Americans should be calling out fundamentalists for depicting nonbelievers as agents of evil.

David Niose - Psychology Today - From the article: Would You Know Atheist Discrimination If You Saw It? (via hatefulatheist)

THIS^ People ignore the derogatory implications against nonbelievers and rush to defend the character of an imaginary deity. Pretty shitty.

religiousragings:

nakedpastor:

NOTHING infuriates me more than religious people & organizations controlling & running over people & excusing it with spiritual bullshit!

Ditto

(Source: nakedpastor.com)

Pastor’s Speech Against Gay Rights Has Surprise Ending

A Missouri pastor delivered an impassioned speech before the Springfield City Council in which he appeared to be making the case against amending the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to add protection for sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Rev. Phil Snider of Brentwood Christian Church told the council during the August hearing that “this step of gay rights is but another steppingstone toward the immorality and lawlessness that will be characteristic of the last days.”

He continued along these lines, citing the Bible and his religious beliefs to make his case.

But then, near the very end of the speech, he started to lose this train of thought (or so you’re led to believe). And after that, something unexpected and wonderful happens.

(Source: truthdig.com)