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."
“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.
A California pastor and two of his parishioners admitted to torturing a 13-year-old boy at a church-run group home in an attempt to “scare” him straight.
Lonny Remmers, 56, admitted to torturing the teen during a Bible study session. Remmers, the head of Hart Worship Community Church in the small town of Corona, ordered two men, Nicholas Craig, 24, and Darryll Jeter Jr., 30, to “scare” the boy straight because he was acting up. The boy was then driven to a remote area, beaten and forced to dig his own grave, according to court documents.
He was forced into the grave, while men threw dirt on him as if they would bury him alive. They then removed him from the hole, took him the home, allowed him to shower, and then rubbed salt into his wounds, the documents said.
They also tied him down and sprayed mace in his face, which caused his nose to bleed.
The next day the torture continued when they twisted the boy’s nipples with pliers in front of a dozen other men.
The three men pleaded guilty Monday to assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting corporal injury on a child and making criminal threats. They avoided a kidnapping charge by pleading guilty, the New York Daily News reports.
Remmers is expected to be sentenced to two years in prison. Craig and Jeter were given one year of home confinement and three years of probation.
The boy was allegedly brought to Remmer’s church, which has 15 to 20 members, by his mother. His mother and sister are both church members. The boy, who was not identified, had been confined to a men’s home as a disciplinary action.
This barbaric form of execution is on the rise, and campaigners are calling on the UN to act.
Two months ago, a young mother of two was stoned to death by her relatives on the order of a tribal court in Pakistan. Her crime: possession of a mobile phone.
Arifa Bibi’s uncle, cousins and others hurled stones and bricks at her until she died, according to media reports. She was buried in a desert far from her village. It’s unlikely anyone was arrested. Her case is not unique. Stoning is legal or practised in at least 15 countries or regions. And campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Women’s rights activists have launched an international campaign for a ban on stoning, which is mostly inflicted on women accused of adultery. They are using Twitter and other social media to put pressure on the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to denounce the practice.
"Stoning is a cruel and hideous punishment. It is a form of torturing someone to death," said Naureen Shameem of the international rights group Women Living Under Muslim Laws. "It is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms."
She said activists will also push the UN to adopt a resolution on stoning similar to the one passed last year on eradicating female genital mutilation – another form of violence against women often justified on religious and cultural grounds.