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)

ISIS Defends Enslaving Women in New Magazine

An article in the fourth issue of Dabiq (ISIS’ online magazine, page 14) said the practice of taking women and girls of the enemy is firmly established in the Quran and allowed under the strict laws by which they claim to abide. Anyone who criticized the group’s taking of women and girls as sex slaves, the article continued, would be criticizing Islam and mocking the Prophet Muhammed.

Richard Dawkins is Right About Islam, And Everyone Knows It

…There is no part of core Islamic belief that’s liberal. If you do anything good, it’s not because it’s good inherently - it’s because an all-powerful tyrant says so and will slaughter those who defy Him: Basically the same moral origin as fundamentalist Christianity, only with scriptural examples of militant political religion by the central spiritual figure and his followers. God is not good in the Islamic framework, but “Merciful” - i.e., one who is malevolent but restrains himself if you are obedient. And the concepts of “peace” and “submission” are thus considered identical…

…Where religion is about controlling people, Islam is nothing but control - except in the few places where people are allowed to unleash their violent passions against designated scapegoats. All other competitors for passion are strictly regulated or prohibited: Women, alcohol, art, music, everything. Christianity is less explicit on these subjects, and where it is, Christians mostly ignore it because (a)most of them know it’s crap, and (b)people who say it’s crap aren’t targeted for murder, dismemberment, or imprisonment….

…Texas evangelicals can only fantasize about the level of fear, ignorance, and conformity that people are born into in the Islamic world. I find it infuriating that someone in another part of the world could be exactly like me in their minds, but if they spoke the scientific / curious / inquiring thoughts that have been going through my head since childhood, they would be endangering themselves and their families - possibly facing danger from their families….

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…