Category Archives: Atheist

105th birth anniversary of Indian atheist

Stamp showing GoraThe Sisat Daily (The largest urdu news circulated and widely read daily in india) reports on the 105th birth anniversary of atheist leader, social revolutionary and freedom fighter Gora. Continue reading

Humanists raise money for poor effected by Californian fires

Hemant Mehta,the Friendly Atheist reports the Center for Inquiry—Los Angeles is launching an effort through the Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort (SHARE) to raise charitable funds to assist low income and displaced families who have been affected by the recent fires sweeping Southern California.

SHARE is a charity, maintained by the Council for Secular Humanism for over two decades to channel aid to victims of natural disasters, forwards funds received to organisations providing direct relief to the victims.

Raising children in a religion – abuse or stability?

Next up to take on Richard Dawkins is the Guardian’s Anne Karpf. She begins:

If Richard Dawkins had his way, a fair number of you and, as it happens, me, would be had up for child abuse. According to him, that’s what religious indoctrination of children by their parents is. And if you can sue for the long-term mental damage caused by physical abuse, he argues, why shouldn’t you sue for the damage caused by mental child abuse?

If you accept Dawkins’s characterisation of religion, you’d probably agree. Religious parents, to him, are Mr Dogma and Mrs Bigot: they terrify their kids with tales of eternal hell, fire and damnation, when – that is – they’re not carrying out female circumcision or coercing them into forced marriages. Flat-earthers the lot, they’re brainwashers, fanatically opposed to science and rationality.

Isn’t it curious that we tolerate the stereotyping of religion in a way we’d never abide with race, religion [sic] or gender? I certainly don’t recognise myself in this caricature.

Hmmm in fact Karpf is the one doing the misprepresenation here. Continue reading

So what is secularism then?

A subject close to the O Project’s heart– can religious and non-religious people work together on the secularist project? Giles Fraser accuses the National Secular Society (NSS) in the Church Times of “trickery…with respect to the word ‘secular'”:

I contend that the core meaning of secularism is the belief in the separation of Church and state. Religion, the secularist contends, ought not to have a place in shaping the laws or political realities by which we live.

…The NSS often employs this meaning of secular, especially when it is trying to look grown-up in making representations to government. Thus it says it wants “a society in which all are free to practise their faith, change it or not have one, according to their conscience”. It goes on about the importance of public space being open to all, irrespective of faith.

Yet, not far below the surface, another meaning of secular breaks out. Continue reading

Black History Month – Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan

Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan, is a skeptic on religion and scholar of Black-African history. He was born in Ethiopia and reared in the Hebrew faith of the Falasha culture. He has studied at Cambridge University and the University of Barcelona. He has traveled South America and the Caribbean Islands and is multilingual. Originally a graduate in civil engineering, he developed skills in history, philosophy, law, and earned his doctorate degree in cultural anthropology.

In 1945, he moved to the U.S. Many years a Harlemite, he has taught as adjunct professor of African History/Black Studies in Marymount College, Cornell University, and Malcolm-King College. Also, he worked in the Pan-African Studies Department of Temple University. His lecture specialty is the history and philosophy of ancient Nile Valley civilizations.

On the streets of Harlem, Dr. ben-Jochannan established himself as a truly dynamic soapbox orator. Being active in the Black community remains a high priority for him. He lectured before many community and university audiences, both formally and informally.

A Catholic magazine, Ramparts, printed the report of Lez Edmond on the 1964 rioting in Harlem. Edmond, having attended a neighborhood rally, reported on ben-Jochannan’s presentation:

I was brought up as a religious person. As a matter of fact my family wanted me to be a rabbi but after growing up and seeing the situation in all religions, I realized that the churches always support the state wherever they are. The churches can’t help the people when the chips are down because their interest is with the power structure. . . .

I say the black [sic] man has called upon Jesus Christ for so many years here in America, and now he starts calling on Mohammed and there are many who are calling on Moses, and at no time within this period has the black [sic] man’s situation changed, nor has the black [sic] man any freedom. It is obvious that someone didn’t hear his call or isn’t interested in that call — either Jesus, Moses, or Mohammed.

Even Jesus when he got hung upon the cross, he said in his own Book — he says. Father, why has Thou forsaken me? He was calling for help. Now if he couldn’t help himself how is he going to help you?. . . Our position is not to ask dead people to come back and help us; our position is to find ways and means to help ourselves.

While lecturing at the Ninth Annual Conference of the Afrikan [sic] American Institute in 1983, he answered a question on reconciling Western religion with Pan-African sentiments. His candid response was:

Now I am ultrareligious, I’m a member of the religion of freethought — to think freely. So if you carry a label — because I know that some of us must carry a social label, religion is the social label for a lot of people who go to church and don’t believe in anything being said there — in that sense, yes. . . . What is wrong with religion is when you make yourself a slave to it. . . . So, if you are poor, you’d be a fool to give 10 percent to the church in any name, and then have a hole in your shoe with snow coming through.

From the Infidel Guy

Virtues linked to faith?

Canada’s National Post reports on new survey findings that religious believers are more likely than atheists to place a higher value on love, patience and friendship.

The researcher is reportedly claiming that the results could be a warning that Canadians need a religious basis to retain civility in society since those who are involved with religious groups are being exposed to a whole range of values that are not being propagated well by any other major source.

Although “he acknowledged that many non-believers still place a high value on morality and ethics” he attributes this partly to “a legacy from previous generations who held deeper religious views.

The smallest difference was in relation to the value of honesty (94% theists vs 89% atheists valued honesty) which the report notes is the least “emotional” virtue.

But as Justin Trottier, executive director of the Centre for Inquiry Ontario, points out the categories are not culturally neutral and are framed around Christian values ignoring other qualities such as “scientific thinking”, “Critical thinking” or [my own suggestions] equality, and respect for human rights.

Furthermore both Trottier and the study’s author acknowledge that claiming virtues is not the same as enacting them and so it rather than (or as well as) exposing people to the values themselves, religious organisations might merely be exposing people to the language and rhetoric of virtue.  And as Trottier says “Religion tends to be very polarizing, so religious people always feel very passionately about those values. They always feel ‘very strongly.’ Religion always does this black-and-white thing. An atheist is a lot more temperate, a bit more hesitant. An atheist might be more nuanced in his or her thinking.”

We should instead look to people’s deeds.  Of course we humanists should not be so defensive that we can never accept an unpleasant portrait of ourself (just as we would hope religious people can be accepting of their faults). These virtues are not things that we will ever have too much of but it does appear that this survey only tells part of the story.

Social virtues graph

Bishop implies UK gun crime is a result of secularism

Rhys JonesThe Church of England website Religious Intelligence reports that the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev Graham Dow, (yes he who blamed Britain’s floods this year on pro-gay legislation) is now suggesting that the tragic murder of Liverpool schoolboy Rhys Jones is the direct result of the country’s low religiosity.

In an open letter to his diocese he wrote that

“the Government has highlighted respect as a key issue which our society faces in the hope that this will bring about change. But respect will not come just by talking about it….I was in discussion recently about these issues with someone who declared herself to be an atheist. Her answer to the problem was education. Proper education, she insisted, will direct people in right paths.

Note that he specifies that she was an atheist

When I said to her that she was ignoring the Christian history from which our values have come, I could see her anger was beginning to rise. Many people think like her – that better education will solve the problems.

But that ignored the fundamental Christian truth that we are by nature sinful and need to be changed – on the inside, says Bishop Dow.

And to ignore the Christian faith is to ignore the way to inner change….People do not like to hear that so much of what we cherish in our society has come with our Christian history and that by ignoring Christian faith we are undermining the very values we want to keep.

Not only does this opportunism make the Bishop sound like he’s playing the worst political games with a terrible event but it’s untrue – religious belief actually correlates with high murder rates (not to mention abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published in the Journal of Religion and Society in 2005).