Wednesday, February 28, 2007

FreeThoughtAction Hero Of The Day - 2/28/07

Linus Carl Pauling
Linus Carl Pauling (February 28, 1901 - August 19, 1994)

According to Wikipedia, Pauling "was an American quantum chemist and biochemist. He also called himself a crystallographer, molecular biologist, and medical researcher. Pauling is widely regarded as the premier chemist of the twentieth century. He pioneered the application of quantum mechanics to chemistry (quantum mechanics can, in principle, describe all of chemistry and molecular biology), and in 1954 was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work describing the nature of chemical bonds. He also made important contributions to crystal and protein structure determination, and was one of the founders of molecular biology. He came near to discovering the "double helix," the ultrastructure of DNA, when Watson and Crick made the discovery in 1953. Pauling is noted as a versatile scholar for his expertise in inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, metallurgy, immunology, anesthesiology, psychology, debate, radioactive decay, and the aftermath of nuclear warfare, in addition to quantum mechanics and molecular biology.

"Pauling's contribution to science is held by many in the utmost regard. He was included in a list of the 20 greatest scientists of all time by the British magazine New Scientist, with Albert Einstein being the only other scientist from the twentieth century on the list."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Biology And Bullshit

In any event, religion's interface with science - long fraught - seems especially so these days, with a bevy of books criticizing religion as well as defending it.


Hunting Chimps

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chimpanzees have been seen using spears to hunt bush babies, U.S. researchers said on Thursday in a study that demonstrates a whole new level of tool use and planning by our closest living relatives.


Flat-Earth Society's Warriors

Rep. Warren Chisum, a self-described creationist who is also a Republican state representative from the Texas Panhandle, Appropriations Committee chairman of the House and the second most powerful member of that august body, must have figured that he had that lefty evolution-touting crowd dead to rights. In a memo Chisum circulated to all 149 Texas state representatives, Darwin's theory of evolution was described as nothing more than a Jewish plot.


After Six Years, Opposition Gaining On George W. Bush's Faith Based Initiative

Unmentioned in the president's State of the Union speech, the program nevertheless continues to recruit religious participants and hand out taxpayer money to religious groups.


Israeli Troops Raid Nablus, Start Curfew

NABLUS, West Bank Feb 25, 2007 (AP) -- Dozens of Israeli jeeps and armored vehicles raided the West Bank city of Nablus Sunday and placed tens of thousands of Palestinians under curfew.


3 French Sightseers Killed Near Saudi Holy City

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 26 -- Gunmen killed three French citizens and wounded a fourth near the holy city of Medina in Saudi Arabia early Monday, in a brazen reminder that attacks on foreigners there have not stopped despite an aggressive three-year security crackdown.


Court Declares Bosnia Killings Were Genocide

THE HAGUE, Feb. 26 -- The International Court of Justice on Monday for the first time called the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995 an act of genocide, but determined that Serbia itself was not guilty of the enormous crime.


Christian Right Labors To Find '08 Candidate

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 -- A group of influential Christian conservatives and their allies emerged from a private meeting at a Florida resort this month dissatisfied with the Republican presidential field and uncertain where to turn.


Al Qaeda Resurgent

Almost five and a half years ago, America -- united by the shock of 9/11 -- understood exactly what it needed to do. It had to find, thwart and take down the command structure of Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 innocent people on American soil. Despite years of costly warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, America today is not significantly closer to that essential goal.


Post 9/11, Islam Flourishes Among Blacks

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Islam is growing fast among African Americans, who are undeterred by increased scrutiny of Muslims in the United States since the September 11 attacks, according to imams and experts.


Principal Considers Students' Chant About Jesus Anti-Semitic

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (AP) -- A Catholic school principal has organized sensitivity training for students who shouted "We love Jesus" during a basketball game against a school with Jewish students.

The word "Jew" also was painted on a gym wall behind the seats of Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School students attending the Feb. 2 game at Norfolk Academy, said Dennis W. Price, principal of the Virginia Beach school.


Christian Pediatrician Denies Child Service Because Parents Are Tattooed

BAKERSFIELD - A family is turned away by a local pediatrician, they say because of the way they look.

The doctor said he is just following his beliefs, creating a Christian atmosphere for his patients.


A Battle Of Ideas

Europe is in the midst of an undeclared "civil war" -- a struggle that has been boiling away since the 18th century. It is a war between religious believers and secularists.


Sarkozy Warns Of Terrorist Threat To Election

An Islamic terrorist group linked to al-Qa'eda could launch suicide attacks in France during the presidential election campaign, intelligence chiefs working for the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, warned yesterday.


The Times They Are A-Changing For US Fundamentalists

There are cycles in American political life, argued historian Arthur Schlesinger. Spells of conservativism and private purpose alternate with periods of liberalism and public-spiritedness - with turbulent years of transition in between. If the Schlesinger thesis has any validity, the US looks as if another such transition is just beginning.


Egypt: Blogger's Imprisonment Sets Chilling Precedent

A court in Alexandria this morning convicted and sentenced Abd al-Karim Nabil Sulaiman, to four years in prison on charges of insulting Islam, defaming the president, and "spreading information disruptive of the public order."


Scorn Poured On James Cameron's 'Coffin Of Christ' Theory

Archaeologists and biblical scholars have poured scorn on a Hollywood film director's sensational claim that he has discovered the coffin of Jesus Christ.


See also...

Jesus tomb found, says film-maker

'Clairvoyant' Conmen Reap Millions By Preying On Weak And Vulnerable

Mailshots from bogus psychics sucked 170,000 people into their scams last year. Jon Robins tells the tragic story of one of their elderly victims.


Monday, February 26, 2007

FreeThoughtAction Hero Of The Day - 02/26/07

Victor Hugo
Victor-Marie Hugo (February 26, 1802 - May 1885). According to Wikipedia; Hugo was a Humanist "French poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights campaigner, and perhaps the most influential exponent of the Romantic movement in France. In France his literary reputation rests on his poetic and dramatic output. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Legende des siecles stand particularly high in critical esteem, and Hugo is sometimes identified as the greatest French poet. In the English-speaking world his best-known works are often the novels Les Miserables and Notre-Dame de Paris (sometimes translated into English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).

"Hugo's religious views changed radically over the course of his life. In his youth, he identified as a Catholic and professed respect for Church hierarchy and authority. From there he evolved into a non-practicing Catholic, and expressed increasingly violent anti-papist and anti-clerical views. He dabbled in Spiritualism during his exile, and in later years settled into a Rationalist Deism similar to that espoused by Voltaire. When a census-taker asked Hugo in 1872 if he was a Catholic, he replied, 'No. A Freethinker.'"

Today is also the birthday of atheist Claude Adrien Helvetius (February 26, 1715 - December 26, 1771). According to Wikipedia, "Helvetius was a French philosopher and litterateur.... His philosophical studies ended in the production of his famous book De l'esprit (On Mind) published in 1758. The book was considered to be heretical, so atheistic that it was condemned by Church and State and was burned."

Finally, today is the anniversary of the death of Freethinker William Melvin Hicks, better known as Bill Hicks (December 16, 1961 - February 26, 1994). According to Wikipedia; Hicks "was a controversial American stand-up comedian, satirist, and social critic."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Births And Deaths - 02/24/07 & 02/25/07

FreeThoughtAction recognizes atheist Benedetto Croce (February 25, 1866 - November 20, 1952) on his birthday.

According to Wikipedia, Croce "was an Italian critic, idealist philosopher, and politician. He wrote on numerous topics, including philosophy of history and aesthetics."

We also note the anniversary of the death of atheist Claude Elwood Shannon (April 30, 1916 - February 24, 2001).

According to Wikipedia, Shannon was "an American electrical engineer and mathematician, has been called 'the father of information theory,' and was the founder of practical digital circuit design theory.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

When God Sanctions Killing, People Listen

New research published in the March issue of Psychological Science may help elucidate the relationship between religious indoctrination and violence, a topic that has gained renewed notoriety in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In the article, University of Michigan psychologist Brad Bushman and his colleagues suggest that scriptural violence sanctioned by God can increase aggression, especially in believers.


216 Million Americans Are Scientifically Illiterate

The good news: America's science literacy rate is up from a pathetic 10 percent in 1988. The bad news: it's still only 28 percent.


What Secret "Other Matters" Did McCain Discuss With "Apocalypse Now" Hagee ?

A few weeks ago, to little notice, Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee, founder of the new "apocalypse now!" national lobbying group CUFI met with Presidential candidate and US Senator John McCain and, over breakfast, discussed Israel and "other matters."


John McCain Visits The Creationists

John McCain will deliver the keynote address at a luncheon co-hosted by the Discovery Institute. For those who are unaware the Discovery Institute is the Seattle based "think tank" that is responsible for spearheading the religious right's war on science education.


Gonzales' SBC Announcement Riles Some In Religious-Freedom Field

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' Feb. 20 announcement to Southern Baptist Convention leaders about a new Justice Department focus on religious freedom garnered some praise -- and significant criticism -- from other Christian leaders.






Guest Speaker Angers Enloe Parents, Students

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Some parents of students at Enloe High School are calling for an apology because of a religious presentation given to students.


US Teacher Allowed Anti-Islam Handouts, Activists Say

A high school teacher allowed a group whose declared mission is to "raise an awareness of the danger of Islam" to distribute literature in his class, including a handout titled "Do Not Marry a Muslim Man," according to an advocacy group.


Doctors' Personal Beliefs Can Hinder Care

A disturbing number of doctors do not feel obligated to tell patients about medical options they oppose morally, such as abortion and teen birth control, and believe they have no duty to refer people elsewhere for such treatments, researchers say.


Southern Baptists Urged To Root Out Molesters

The Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has started a campaign to call attention to alleged sex abuse committed by Southern Baptist ministers and concealed by churches.


Gay Marriage Critic Tried On Lewdness

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The lawyer for a former Baptist church leader who had spoken out against homosexuality said Thursday the minister has a constitutional right to solicit sex from an undercover policeman.


Archbishop Warns Church May Still Fall Apart

The Anglican Communion may still fall apart over homosexuality in spite of the eleventh-hour truce agreed by its leaders in Tanzania this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, warns today.


Police Protect Girls Forced To Convert To Islam

UK -- Extremist Muslims who force vulnerable teenage girls to convert to Islam are being targeted by police, Met chief Sir Ian Blair has revealed.


Public Schools For Teaching, Not Handing Out Bibles

It's unfair to make children pawns in ugly cultural war.


Morality Not Soley From The Bible

I am a non-believer. You may, therefore, define me by whichever descriptor suits your worldview. I could be a naturalist, a materialist, an atheist, a secularist or any other term that allows my beliefs to be defined in relation to others who believe essentially the same thing. I will not be offended if you call me any of those things. I will be put off, however, if you decide that my non-belief makes me immoral.


Last Orders

Migrant worshippers are helping to swell Catholic congregations - and yet the ageing population of British nuns is teetering on the verge of extinction.


Northern Ireland Protestants And Catholics Join Forces In Equalities Fight

Protestants and Catholics who have previously been fiercely critical of each other - refusing even to recognise one another as fellow Christians, in some cases - have come together to oppose legislation in the province that would require them to treat lesbian and gay people on an equal basis in terms of public provision.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Egypt Blogger Jailed For 'Insult'

An Egyptian court has sentenced a blogger to four years' prison for insulting Islam and the president.


Blast That Killed U.S. Diplomat Tied To Qaeda

Feb. 22 -- The suicide bombing that killed an American diplomat here last March, just before a visit by President Bush, was organized by a small cell of Pakistani militants and masterminded by an operative of Al Qaeda based in the Pakistan's tribal areas, Pakistan says.


Somali, Ethiopian Troops In Deadly Battle

The interim government and its Ethiopian allies have been hit with near-daily attacks by unidentified gunmen in the Horn of Africa country's seaside capital.

They blame remnants of a hardline Islamist movement they drove out of Mogadishu and southern Somalia in a two-week joint offensive before the new year, saying the militant group is paying $100 for each attack -- a fortune in the poor country.


Hamas Sends Message

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- A Hamas leader on Friday offered a message to the father of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in June: If you want your son to be released, get your country to follow our demands.


New Al Qaeda Video Claims Attack In Afghanistan

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Al Qaeda posted a 56-second video Friday of rockets being fired at what it claimed was a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.


Poll: Atheists Come In Last

A USA Today / Gallup Poll.

MoD Defends Psychic Powers Study

The Ministry of Defence has defended a decision to carry out tests to find out whether psychic powers could be used to detect hidden objects.


Asbo Pensioner's 'Witch' Threat

An 82-year-old woman told a neighbour's daughter that she was a "witch" and would cast a spell on her family and kill her pet dog, a court has heard.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

FreeThoughtAction Hero Of The Day - 2/22/07

George Washington
George Washington (February 22, 1732 - December 14, 1799).

According to Wikipedia; Washington "led America's Continental Army to victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), and was later elected the first president of the United States under the U.S. Constitution. He served two four-year terms from 1789 to 1797, winning reelection in 1792. Because of his central and critical role in the founding of the United States, Washington is referred to as father of the nation. His devotion to republicanism and civic virtue made him an exemplary figure among early American politicians.....

"His adopted daughter, Nelly Custis Lewis, stated: 'I have heard her [Nelly's mother, Eleanor Calvert Custis,] say that General Washington always received the sacrament with my grandmother [Martha Washington] before the revolution'. After the revolution, Washington frequently accompanied his wife to Christian church services; however, there is no record of his ever taking communion, and he would regularly leave services before communion -- with the other non-communicants (as was the custom of the day), until he ceased attending at all on communion Sundays. Historians and biographers continue to debate the degree to which he can be counted as a Christian, and the degree to which he was a deist. It should also be noted that Washington was a Freemason. Even a few portraits exist of Washington in Masonic regalia.

"Washington was an early supporter of religious toleration. In 1775, he ordered that his troops not show anti-Catholic sentiments by burning the pope in effigy on Guy Fawkes Night. When hiring workmen for Mount Vernon, he wrote to his agent, 'If they be good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans (Muslims), Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists.'"

Some relevant Washington quotes:

"We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition ... In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States."

"Government being, among other purposes, instituted to protect the consciences of men from oppression, it certainly is the duty of Rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but according to their stations, to prevent it in others."

"The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy."

We salute Washington today as an example of a person free of religious intolerance and bigotry, and supporter of the separation of Church and State.

Westboro Church Protesters Show Up At Soldier's Funeral In Maryland

BEL AIR, Md. -- Four strangers from the Topeka, Kan., Westboro Baptist Church joined the family, friends and fellow Marines who flocked to Oak Grove Baptist Church Friday to mourn Marine Cpl. Jennifer Marie Parcell, 20, killed the week before by a suicide bomber while serving at a military checkpoint in Anbar province, Iraq.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

'Lost Boy' Sues To Contact Mom

Johnny Jessop was just 13 when polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs allegedly expelled him from his family, home and community.


Seeing Is Not Believing

Terry Byland's remarkable bionic eye illuminates the great fallacy of ID: nature is often neither intelligent nor well-designed.


Europe: Mosques Could Outnumber Churches

England is known for its impressive churches. However, they have become increasingly void of worshipers. At the same time, Muslims with mosques have moved in.


Teacher Says Non-Christian Students "Belong In Hell"

I remember the beginnings of this story, back a few weeks ago now. A student named Matthew LaClair was sitting in history class at Kearney High School in New Jersey when his teacher, David Paszkiewicz, began saying crazy things. Crazy things like "There were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark" and that if they don't follow Jesus as their savior they "belong in hell." This is in addition to statements like "There is no scientific basis for the big bang."


Anti-American Feelings Soar Among Muslims

The War on Terror has radicalised Muslims around the world to unprecedented levels of anti-American feeling, according to the largest survey of Muslims ever to be conducted.


Saudis Behead Four Foreigners

Saudi Arabia has put the bodies of four Sri Lankans beheaded in Riyadh on display in public in an effort to deter a rising crime wave by foreigners.

International rights groups have often accused the conservative kingdom, a key US ally, of applying draconian and arbitrary justice, beheading murderers, rapists and drug traffickers in public by the sword.

The desert kingdom, which is home to Islam's holiest shrines, says it applies strict Islamic law.


It's All Right To Attack A Politician's Religion

Is it bigoted to oppose a politician because of their religious beliefs?


Muslim Husband Who Killed His Wife And Children Because Of Their Western Ways

Mohammed Riaz made every conceivable attempt to prevent his wife and daughters enjoying their Westernised lifestyle. He destroyed their clothes - modest by Western standards but tight fitting by his own - when they came out of the wash and he railed against plans to allow alcohol at his terminally ill son's 18th birthday party - which had been brought forward because of his prognosis.


Female Minister Killed For Refusing To Wear Veil

An Islamic fundamentalist shot and killed a female Pakistani minister yesterday because of her refusal to wear a Muslim veil.


Sex Abuse Victims' Advocates Go After Southern Baptists

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- The victims' advocates who dogged the Roman Catholic Church over sex abuse by its clergy have now turned their attention to the Southern Baptists, accusing America's largest Protestant denomination of also failing to root out molesters.


Exorcism Priest Is Jailed For Nun Death

AN ORTHODOX priest and four nuns have been sentenced to a total of 38 years' jail in Romania after they were convicted of killing a young nun who died when they left her strapped to a crucifix with a cloth stuck in her mouth during a five-day exorcism ritual.


Rhode Island Steps Toward Recognizing Same-Sex Marriage

BOSTON, Feb. 21 -- The Rhode Island attorney general said Wednesday that same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts, the sole state where they are legal, should be recognized in Rhode Island.


Gonzales Says Religious Freedoms A Priority

Saying the government has not always paid enough attention to religious discrimination, the country's top law enforcement official picked a gathering of Southern Baptist leaders in Nashville on Tuesday to announce a renewed push to protect religious freedoms.


Rape Allegations Further Strain Iraqi Sunni-Shiite Ties

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Allegations that a Sunni woman was raped by Shiite police officers, and the Iraqi government's response has strained the already frayed relations between followers of the Muslim sects.


Airline Logo Scares Superstitious

ZAVENTEM, Belgium (AP) -- Thirteen dots looked just right to designer Ronane Hoet.

Together they had the perfect balance to form a stylized "b" for the new Belgian carrier Brussels Airlines and the number also matched the airline's destinations in Africa, a key market. "It was harmony," she said, wistfully.

This week, however, Brussels Airlines was busy changing the 13-ball logo on the tail and sides of one of its Airbus jets and adding a 14th one in response to complaints from superstitious customers in the United States and Italy.


Pakistan Denies Al Qaeda Resurgence Report

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan has denied published reports that indicated al Qaeda is active and getting stronger in its tribal North Waziristan region along the country's border with Afghanistan.


London Bomb Suspect 'Wore Burka'

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- The jury in the trial of six men accused of plotting suicide bombings in London on July 21, 2005, were shown footage on Tuesday of what prosecutors said was one of the suspects escaping in a burka after the failed attacks.


Pray Lift Your Eyes Above The Belt

Anglican archbishops in Dar es Salaam are struggling to avoid "schism" in their vast communion over the issue of ordaining, or indeed tolerating, Christians whose unsought orientation is to pair up with others of their own gender. And it will be the illiberal, genitally-fixated wing of Anglicanism that slides towards unity with Rome.


Ted Haggard's Escalating Dark Side

Ted Haggard's "dark side" apparently spread farther than anybody thought.

"Numerous individuals" -- some of them later described as young male staffers -- have outlined what church leaders call a pattern of improper and even "sordid" behavior by the founder and former chief pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.


Haggard's Former Church Holds 'Day Of Hope'

COLORADO SPRINGS (AP) - Numerous individuals reported knowledge of New Life Church founder Ted Haggard's struggle with a "dark side," leading to his departure from the mega-church, a member of the church's board of overseers told parishioners Sunday.


Scores Choke In Poison Gas Attack

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A cloud of deadly toxic gas engulfed an Iraqi town Tuesday, killing six people and leaving dozens of others choking on fumes after a tanker carrying chlorine exploded outside a restaurant.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kissing Hank's Ass

A Humorous Metaphor

Science Vs. Faith

An easy to understand graphic HERE .

Anglicans Rebuke U.S. Branch On Same-Sex Unions

Facing a possible churchwide schism, the Anglican Communion yesterday gave its Episcopal branch in the United States less than eight months to ban blessings of same-sex unions or risk a reduced role in the world's third-largest Christian denomination.


Mideast Talks Conclude With Little Result

JERUSALEM, Feb. 19 -- An American-sponsored meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders meant to start a new peace initiative after six years ended Monday with little more concrete than a promise to meet again.


Old Foes Join In Anger As Train Bombing's Toll Rises To 66

A day after two homemade bombs killed at least 66 people on a train traveling to Pakistan from India, the governments of both countries on Monday condemned the attack and pledged that it would not deter their aim of reducing longstanding hostilities on the subcontinent.


Taliban Seize Rural District In Southwest

Taliban insurgents seized control of a district in southwestern Afghanistan on Monday as the Afghan police abandoned their post and fled, officials said.


US And Israel 'Back Boycott Plan'

The US and Israel will not work with a new Palestinian unity government unless it recognises Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Attack Near U.S.-Iraq Outpost Kills 10

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An attack by three suicide car bombers Monday near a U.S.-Iraqi outpost killed two American soldiers and eight Iraqi police officers, Iraqi officials told CNN.


Pastor With 666 Tattoo Claims To Be Divine

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- The minister has the number 666 tattooed on his arm.
But Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is not your typical minister. De Jesus, or "Daddy" as his thousands of followers call him, does not merely pray to God: He says he is God.


Atheists Under Attack

I recently heard that the "Paula Zahn Show" on CNN would be featuring a story on discrimination against atheists, and being atheist myself, I tuned in to hear what Zahn had to say about me. The show told the stories of several atheist families that were forced to leave their homes because their respective communities turned against them. When one family complained to their local school board about Bible studies taking place in their son's classroom, they were ostracized by their community and forced to move. I was thoroughly pleased to see atheism being addressed by the media…that is, until I witnessed what happened next.


Anti-Atheist Republican Bigots

Atrios has a link to a video of Mitt Romney being heckled about being Mormon. It's pretty painful to listen to, and gets more painful when Romney resorts to some platitudes about respecting all faiths but saying "We need to have a person of faith lead the country."


Americans Sending Mixed Signals On Science

SAN FRANCISCO - People in the U.S. know more about basic science today than they did two decades ago, good news that researchers say is tempered by an unsettling growth in the belief in pseudoscience such as astrology and visits by extraterrestrial aliens.


Preachers, Revenge Push Indonesia Terror

In interviews with The Associated Press, Basri and four other militants detained with him said they were uneducated men, seeking to avenge relatives killed in a Muslim-Christian conflict six years ago and brainwashed by members of the al-Qaida linked Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah.


For Gods And Country

The Army Chaplain Who Wanted to Switch to Wicca? Transfer Denied.


Chris Hedges On "American Fascists: The Christian Right And The War On America"

Chris Hedges's new book examines how Christian dominionists are seeking absolute power and a Christian state. According to Hedges, the movement bears a strong resemblance to the young fascist movements in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and '30s.


God, Sex, Drugs And Politics

"THE governor's action seems to signify that God's moral law regarding sex outside of marriage can be transgressed without consequence." Those words came this week from Rick Scarborough of Vision America, a Christian lobbying group. The US Pastor Council and various Republican politicians have piled in too.


Memo: Stop Teaching Evolution

AUSTIN -- The second most powerful member of the Texas House has circulated a Georgia lawmaker's call for a broad assault on teaching of evolution.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Al Qaeda Chiefs Are Seen To Regain Power

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 -- Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.


More Than 60 Killed In Three Car Bombings In Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Amid a massive security operation to secure Baghdad, car bombs Sunday struck in two Shiite neighborhoods, targeting civilians and police, Iraqi officials said.


Churches Back Plan To Unite Under Pope

Radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published this year,


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Catholic Leaders: Condom Handout Immoral

New York's top Catholic leaders on Thursday sharply criticized Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration for distributing free condoms, accusing them of promoting promiscuity and degrading society.


Is America Too Damn Religious?

NPR -- As if it weren't provocative enough to hold a debate on religion in America, panelists in a recent debate were tasked with answering the following: "Is America Too Damn Religious?"


New Python Musical Branded 'Blasphemous'

CHRISTIANS in Wales have reacted angrily to plans to turn controversial comedy Life of Brian into a musical.


Priest Appears In Las Vegas Court On Attempted Murder, Sex Assault Charges

LAS VEGAS -- A Roman Catholic priest accused of beating and sexually assaulting a female employee at a southern Nevada parish office made his initial court appearance in Las Vegas on Tuesday.


Parents Convicted Of Killing Son, 8

MARIETTA, Ga. - A suburban Atlanta couple was convicted of murder Friday in the beating death of their 8-year-old son, a case that prompted authorities to raid the parents' church because it supports corporal punishment.

Prosecutors said Joseph and Sonya Smith beat their son Josef, locked him in a wooden box and confined him to a closet for hours at a time before he died in October 2003.


Supreme Court Accepts Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation

(MADISON, WIS.) The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation challenging the government preference for religion shown by the creation of the White House Office of Faith-based Initiatives. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the Bush Administration's claim that it can use taxpayer money to support religion without complaint by taxpayers.


Native American Populations Share Gene Signature

A distinctive, repeating sequence of DNA found in people living at the eastern edge of Russia is also widespread among Native Americans, according to a new study.

The finding lends support to the idea that Native Americans descended from a common founding population that lived near the Bering land bridge for some time.


Out Of Africa

Science Daily -- When man made his way out of Africa some 60,000 years ago to populate the world, he was not alone: He was accompanied by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which causes gastritis in many people today. Together, man and the bacterium spread throughout the entire world. This is the conclusion reached by an international team of scientists led by Mark Achtman from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany. The researchers also discovered that differences developed in the genetic makeup of the bacteria populations, just as it did in that of the various peoples of the world. This has also given scientists new insight into the paths taken by man as he journeyed across the Earth (Nature online, February 7, 2007).


Anglican Prelates Snub Head Of U.S. Church Over Gay Issues

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Feb. 16 -- Seven archbishops who say they represent more than 30 million Anglicans worldwide refused to take Communion here on Friday with the new head of the American Episcopal Church, to protest her support of gay clergy members and blessings for same-sex unions.


See also...

Anglican leaders avoid church split over homosexuals

Pakistan Suicide Bomber Kills Judge, Lawyers

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) -- A suicide bomber killed 15 people -- including a judge -- after blowing himself up inside a courtroom in a southwestern Pakistani province that has seen intense civil conflict for years, police said.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Legislators In Texas And Georgia Promoting A Bizarre Anti-Semitic Creationist Conspiracy Theory

Chisum had distributed a memo from Georgia Rep Ben Bridges which claimed that evolution was a conspiracy perpetrated by Jewish scientists influenced by kabbala and "the Pharisee religion" in order to undermine Christianity. Bridges referred readers to a website for further information...



Barnes' memo pointed fellow state legislators to the information at which rails against the "a mystic, anti-Christ 'holy book' of the Pharisee Sect of Judaism" and claims that "the earth is not rotating ... nor is it going around the sun." They've even caught on to the "centuries-old conspiracy" on the part of Jewish physicists to destroy Christianity.


Death Certificates On Abortions Proposed

Legislation introduced in Tennessee would require death certificates for aborted fetuses, which likely would create public records identifying women who have abortions.


God - The Failed Hypothesis By Victor Stenger

Proof that atheism is hot -- at least from the perspective of bookstores -- hit me in my local national chain bookstore last week. Just a few feet from the front door sits a center cap of new releases on sale. Amongst the dozen or so selections - Victor Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis.


In The Beginning

Wade relies on a recent "cascade of DNA data" that has enabled scientists to reconstruct an especially critical leg of the modern human journey. During the last 50,000 years, Wade explains, an anatomically consistent population has fashioned and been fashioned by an entirely new social structure based on trust instead of tyranny, reciprocity rather than retribution. A fully articulate language probably co-evolved with some form of religion approximately 50,000 years ago, the former facilitating, among other things, deception and economic interaction, the latter providing a means, albeit imperfect, by which to deter dishonesty and freeloading.


Faces, Faces Everywhere

More than a decade ago, Diana Duyser of Hollywood, Fla., received a religious message through an unlikely medium: a grilled cheese sandwich she had made herself. As she gazed at the brown skillet marks on the surface of the bread, a familiar visage snapped into focus.


Vanuatu Cargo Cult Marks 50 Years

One of the world's last surviving cargo cults is celebrating its official 50th anniversary on Tanna island in Vanuatu.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

FreeThoughtAction Hero of the Day - 2/15/07

Susan B. Anthony
Susan Brownell Anthony (February 15, 1820 - March 13, 1906), better known as Susan B. Anthony.

According to Wikipedia, Susan B. Anthony "was a prominent, independent and well-educated American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women's rights movement to secure women's suffrage in the United States. She traveled thousands of miles throughout the United States and Europe, and gave 75 to 100 speeches per year on women's rights for some 45 years."

Also born on this day is freethinker Matthew Abram Groening, Emmy-winning American cartoonist and the creator of the American animated television series The Simpsons and Futurama, as well as the weekly comic strip Life in Hell. He currently serves as a creative consultant for The Simpsons, a position he has held for over seventeen years since the show's inception in 1989.

Finally, today is the anniversary or the death of freethinker Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 - February 15, 1988).

The Mind, As It Evolves

Evolutionary psychology sees the mind as a set of evolved mechanisms, or adaptations, that have promoted survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychopathology -- abnormal psychology through an evolutionary lens -- looks at what has gone wrong.


Foreword For The UK Edition Of 'Letter To A Christian Nation'

The British Edition of Sam's book is to be published in the week beginning 11th Feb 2007, and the publishers have given us permission to post an advance copy of the Foreword now. My brief was to introduce to British readers a book that was originally intended for an American audience.


Feminist's Book Is Recalled By Its Publisher For "Offending Religion"

Cairo - In a rare case in Egypt, a publisher has recalled copies of a book written by a controversial feminist after discovering it "offends religion."


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

FreeThoughtAction Hero Of The Day - 2/14/07

Teller (born Raymond Joseph Teller on February 14, 1948).

According to Wikipedia, Teller "is an American magician, best known as the smaller, silent half of the comedy magic duo known as Penn & Teller. He legally changed his name to Teller and possesses one of the few United States passports issued in a single name."

Teller currently appears with his partner Penn Jillette the Showtime television series Bullshit!.

"Penn & Teller's objective is similar to the objectives of Harry Houdini and James Randi (a frequent guest in the show), who are known for debunking claims of supernatural powers."

Two Stories Especially For Today

Loving with all your ... brain

And from last week...

Prehistoric lovers found locked in eternal embrace

Kansas Repeals Science Guidelines Questioning Evolution

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) -- Kansas has repealed public school science guidelines questioning the theory of evolution that brought the state international ridicule, but educators aren't sure how long it will be before the decision is overturned.


See also:

Kansas: Anti-Evolution Guidelines Are Repealed

Al Qaeda Group Calls For Attacks On U.S. Oil

DUBAI (Reuters) -- A Saudi wing of al Qaeda called for attacks on U.S. oil sources across the world, saying targets should not be limited to the Middle East and listing Canada, Venezuela and Mexico as U.S. oil suppliers.


New Life Buys Ted Haggard's Silence

With the national media salivating over diaper-clad astronauts and lobotomized slatterns overdosing on diet shakes, the sad saga of Ted Haggard has been all but forgotten. That's too bad because the saga is ongoing and as scandalous as ever.


My Critics Are Wrong To Call Me Dogmatic, Says Dawkins

But whereas I and other scientists are humble enough to say we don't know, what of theologians like McGrath? He knows. He's signed up to the Nicene Creed. The universe was created by a very particular supernatural intelligence who is actually three in one. Not four, not two, but three. Christian doctrine is remarkably specific: not only with cut-and-dried answers to the deep problems of the universe and life, but about the divinity of Jesus, about sin and redemption, heaven and hell, prayer and absolute morality. And yet McGrath has the almighty gall to accuse me of a "glossy", "quick fix", naive faith that science has all the answers.


Jerusalem Mayor Suspends Renovations Near Mosque

Mayor Uri Lupolianski announced late Sunday the suspension of repair work to a damaged stone ramp leading to the mosque has that has angered Muslims across the world and which the Arab League on Saturday called a "criminal attack."


McCain In Pitched Battle To Woo Christian Right

The Republican presidential hopeful is working hard to repair relations with conservative Christian activists, whose support could be critical to winning the GOP nomination. But they remain skeptical that he sincerely shares their values.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Crowds Flock To 'Miracle' Statue

A statue of Jesus Christ is causing a sensation at an art gallery after witnesses said they saw sparks shooting from its eyes.


A Familiar And Prescient Voice, Brought To Life

It's been a long 10 years since we've heard Carl Sagan beckoning us to consider the possibilities inherent in the "billions" of stars peppering the sky and in the "billions" of neuronal connections spiderwebbing our brains.


A Simpler Origin for Life

The sudden appearance of a large self-copying molecule such as RNA was exceedingly improbable. Energy-driven networks of small molecules afford better odds as the initiators of life.


Beware The Bogus Psychics

I love the title of this article -- as if there are psychics that are not bogus.

The article is HERE.

Moroccans Hail 'Miracle Worker'

Thousands of people queue up every day with a bottle of water or bag of sugar to see Morocco's latest sensation - a traditional healer.


Suicide Bomb Kills 16

A suicide bomber detonated a powerful truck bomb outside a Ministry of Trade food warehouse in northwestern Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 16 people and wounding 40 others, an Interior Ministry official said.

The attack took place around 10 a.m. (2 a.m. ET) in the capital's Iskan district, a predominantly Shiite area of town.

Police also found a booby-trapped ambulance about 500 yards away, but they were able to defuse all of the explosives, The Associated Press reported.

Another car bomb exploded outside a bakery in southeastern Baghdad hours later. Four people were killed and several others were wounded, a Baghdad police official said.

Tuesday's violence comes a day after five explosions ripped through central Baghdad, killing at least 90 people and wounding more than 190 others.

Iraq's Interior Ministry accused al Qaeda in Iraq of responsibility for the deadliest of Monday's attacks and detained three people, including two foreigners and an Iraqi.

Monday's deadly bombings exploded amid memorials marking last year's attack on a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra.

The February 22, 2006, bombing is blamed for sparking sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. It has been a year since the attack, according to the Islamic calendar.


Chimps May Have Used 'Hammers' 4,300 Years Ago

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Chimpanzees may have been using stone "hammers" as long as 4,300 years ago, an international research team, led by archaeologist Julio Mercader of the University of Calgary, Canada, said Monday.


Dawkins On CNN

Richard Dawkins appeared on CNN last night.

The videos can be found HERE.

I must say the whole episode was poorly done and the segment with Dawkins was so brief it hardly rose to the level of an interview. It was more like a drive-by interview.

At least, the issue is being covered and Dawkins came across well.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Darwin Day!

Darwin Day 2007
Charles Darwin
Celebrations have been planned.

Today marks the 198th birthday of Charles Robert Darwin (February 12, 1809 - April 19, 1882), perhaps the ultimate FreeThoughtAction hero.

According to Wikipedia, Darwin "was an eminent English naturalist who achieved lasting fame by convincing the scientific community that species develop over time from a common origin. His theories explaining this phenomenon through natural and sexual selection are central to the modern understanding of evolution as the unifying theory of the life sciences, essential in biology and important in other disciplines such as anthropology, psychology and philosophy."

Darwin's 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species and his 1871 The Descent of Man not only unified the life sciences, it revolutionized human thought, overturning the argument from design (or teleological argument), that had prevailed for thousands of years.

Once every aspect of the argument from design could be explained by natural selection, there was no longer any need to look to supernaturalism and essentialism for answers.

Darwin also explained how altruistic ethical systems could evolve through natural selection, providing a scientific foundation for ethics that didn't require divine guidance, punishment, or reward.

Overall, his influence on humanity spread into many areas and fields. It is all too much to cover in one post like this, but it is probably impossible to overstate his impact.

While Darwin's theories have been refined over time, and questions remain regarding some unresolved points, the basic "theory" has been well confirmed as valid, and is backed-up and supported by the current research into genetics. Most (if not all) serious, educated people treat the theory of evolution as fact.

Nevertheless, arguments from ignorance continue to be waged against it by religious fundamentalists, who see these ideas as a direct challenge to literal interpretations of divine origins in their religious texts. They also have a problem with the whole idea of common descent (which runs counter to their religious conceit of being fashioned in the image of the divine) and the idea that they can be good without God. They have resorted to spreading misinformation and false propaganda about the theory of evolution, as well as intimidating school boards, teachers, and legislators to sow the seeds of doubt about the validity of the theory in the minds of the general public. Their attempts have met with mixed results, but the battle has been joined and some of us are drawing a line in the sand....

Speaking of which...

Richard Dawkins will be appearing tonight at 8pm EST with Paula Zahn on CNN.

Also worth mentioning is this about Evolution Sunday, where "Flocks of the Christian faithful in the US [held] special services celebrating Charles Darwin's theory of evolution."

Today also marks the 198th birthday of freethinker Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865), who was born on the same day and year as Darwin.

Finally, today also marks the anniversary of the deaths of two other notable freethinkers.

Ethan Allen (January 21, 1738 - February 12, 1789)
Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922 - February 12, 2000)

Interview With An Atheist

A series by David Gleeson who imagines himself, as an atheist, being interviewed by a representative theist.




Megachurches Branching Out

WASHINGTON -- With 13,000 worshipers, a $93 million campus, and a multimillion-dollar budget, can McLean Bible Church, the Christian colossus in Tysons Corner, Va., possibly get any bigger?

Yes .

The evangelical megachurch, one of the country's largest and fastest growing, is launching an ambitious expansion. It plans to build a "spiritual beltway" around the region by opening nine satellite locations to bring tens of thousands more into its fold. Through televised broadcasts, congregants at each location would see and hear portions of the same service at the same time.


Believing Scripture But Playing By Science's Rules

In theory, scientists look to nature for answers to questions about nature, and test those answers with experiment and observation. For Biblical literalists, Scripture is the final authority. As a creationist raised in an evangelical household and a paleontologist who said he was "just captivated" as a child by dinosaurs and fossils, Dr. Ross embodies conflicts between these two approaches. The conflicts arise often these days, particularly as people debate the teaching of evolution.


New Episcopal Leader Braces For Gay-Rights Test

This week, Bishop Jefferts Schori will represent the Episcopal Church at a meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with the presiding bishops of the 37 other provinces in the global Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest church body. Some of those bishops, known as primates, have broken their ties with the American church after it ordained an openly gay bishop and permitted the blessing of same-sex unions.

Some primates have said they will not sit at the same table with Bishop Jefferts Schori. Some have threatened to walk out of the meeting.


Some Tormented By Homosexuality Look To A Controversial Therapy

Last May, Mr. Larsen, 28, began seeing a therapist in Jersey City, joining others across the country making similar attempts to eliminate their gay desires through therapy or religious ministries dedicated to that end. Most are caught in similarly anguishing crises of faith and identity, searching for a way out through a murky world of intense dispute and warring political agendas.


A Princeton Lab On ESP Plans To Close Its Doors

"It's been an embarrassment to science, and I think an embarrassment for Princeton," said Robert L. Park, a University of Maryland physicist who is the author of "Voodoo Science: The Road From Foolishness to Fraud." "Science has a substantial amount of credibility, but this is the kind of thing that squanders it."


Sunday, February 11, 2007

FreeThoughtAction Hero Of The Day - 2/11/07

Today marks the 160th birthday of Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 - October 18, 1931).
Thomas Alva Edison
Some say that Edison ushered in the modern age by: inventing the first practical incandescent, electric light bulb; setting up the first electrical power distribution company; inventing the phonogragh, stock ticker, and first electric vote recorder; improving the telegraph and telephone; developing motion picture technology; and creating the first modern research laboratory.

He is also the reason we say; "Hello" instead of "Ahoy" when answering the phone.

According to Wikipedia, Edison "was an American inventor and businessman who developed many devices which greatly influenced life worldwide into the 21 century. Dubbed "The Wizard of Menlo Park" by a newspaper reporter, he was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production to the process of invention, and can therefore be credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.... Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding 1,097 U.S. patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany."

Here is a list of his record 1,500 + patents worldwide.

His most famous quote is:

"Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."

Less famous are these:

"I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God."

"Nature, is not merciful and loving, but wholly merciless, indifferent."

"To those seaching for truth -- not the truth of dogma and darkness but the truth brought by reason, search, examination, and inquiry, discipline is required. For faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction -- faith in fiction is a damnable false hope."

"Religion is bunk"

His opinion of Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" was:

"It is the best book ever written on the subject. There is nothing like it!"

Edison could perhaps be best descibed as a freethinker (the viewpoint that holds that beliefs should be formed on the basis of science and logical principles and not be comprised by authority, tradition, or any other dogma) and naturalistic pantheist (a deist-like position where "Nature is seen as being God only in a non-traditional, impersonal sense"), while his position toward the supernatural and the Christian religion could be described as "truculent agnosticism."


A REMINDER: Tomorrow is Darwin Day. Check out the celebrations planned HERE.

ALSO: Richard Dawkins will be the guest with Paula Zahn on Thursday, February 12th 2007 at 8pm EST on CNN.

Out Of Africa, In The Gut

Talk about following your gut. When humans first trekked out of Africa about 58,000 years ago, they carried with them stone tools, animal skins--and bacteria that cause ulcers and stomach cancer. These anatomically modern humans unwittingly had the guts to spread Helicobacter pylori into Eurasia, where they passed on the bacteria to their descendants, according to a report published online 7 February in Nature. "The evidence is really convincing," says microbiologist Mark Achtman of the Max-Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, principal investigator of an international team that traced the origins of the bacteria in modern humans.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Anti-Evolution Standards Set To Fall Day After Darwin Birthday

TOPEKA, Kan. - A day after Charles Darwin's birthday, scientists, educators and other Kansans expect to mark the occasion again by watching the state school board dump science standards questioning his theory of evolution.


Giuliani Shifts Abortion Speech Gently To Right

Mr. Giuliani has highlighted a different element of his thinking on the abortion debate. He has talked about how he would appoint "strict constructionist" judges to the Supreme Court -- what abortion rights advocates say is code among conservatives for those who seek to overturn or limit Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court ruling declaring a constitutional right to abortion.


Meet The Relatives. They're Full Of Surprises.

Our ancestors have arrived at the American Museum of Natural History. They are very old, and we are only beginning to recognize them and ourselves in them. They remind us of our origins long ago and how we have emerged as modern humans in the fullness of time.

The museum's new permanent exhibition on human origins, which opens tomorrow, merges notable achievements in paleontology and genetics, sciences that have made their own robust evolutionary strides in recent years. Each introduces evidence supporting the other in establishing a genealogy extending back to protohuman species that arose in Africa from earlier primates some six to seven million years ago.


Conservatives Launch Families First On Immigration

Unlike last year's Evangelical Climate Initiative, an attempt to build bridges to combat global warming that drew headlines and stunned some longtime "traditional values" conservative evangelicals, the newly formed "Families First on Immigration" appears to have elicited little support for its grand entrance into the immigration debate.

And, unlike the numerous religious organizations that have consistently supported undocumented workers and their families, Families First on Immigration is focused more on securing the U.S. borders and eliminating citizenship birthright than with the human rights of immigrants.

Under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, anyone born in the United States is a citizen -- a right Families First is waging an extremely uphill battle to overturn.


Donohue Smear Of Edwards May Violate 501(c)(3) Laws

According to United States law governing the behavior of 501(c)(3) organizations, it seems highly likely that William Donohue--President of the Catholic League, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization--may have broken the law by attempting to intervene in a political campaign.


Second IRS Violation Filed Against Living Word Christian Center

A Washington, D.C., watchdog group is filing a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against television evangelist Mac Hammond's Brooklyn Park mega-church based on documents obtained by Minnesota Monitor that purport the pastor arranged several lucrative deals with the church.

These documents describe financial agreements in which Hammond bought a plane from the Living Word Christian Center and then leased it and another plane back to the church for almost $900,000 a year and obtained loans -- some of them unsecured -- for $1.9 million.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Israeli Police Storm Islam Holy Site

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli police stormed Islam's third holiest shrine Friday after hundreds of angry Islamic worshippers threw stones and bottles in an eruption of outrage over contentious Israeli renovation work at a disputed Old City holy site.


Richard Dawkins With Paula Zahn (CNN) On Darwin Day

Richard Dawkins will be the guest with Paula Zahn on Thursday, February 12th 2007 at 8pm EST on CNN.

We All Fund This Torrent Of Saudi Bigotry

A Muslim teacher called Colin Cook has revealed that children there are taught, via Saudi textbooks, that Jews are "repugnant" and Christians are "pigs". Exercises for five-year olds include the charming exercise, "Mention some repugnant characteristics of Jews". Cook repeatedly heard children in the playground idolising Bin Laden. Challenged on Newsnight about whether she will stop using these racist books, the headteacher, Sumaya Alyusuf, said, "No... I cannot withdraw them. There are good chapters in the books."


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Prehistoric Lovers Found Locked In Eternal Embrace

ROME, Italy (AP) -- It could be humanity's oldest story of doomed love.

Archaeologists have unearthed two skeletons from the Neolithic period locked in a tender embrace and buried outside Mantua. The site is just 25 miles south of Verona, the romantic city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale of "Romeo and Juliet."


Mormon Candidate Braces For Religion As Issue

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 -- As he begins campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is facing a threshold issue: Will his religion - he is a Mormon - be a big obstacle to winning the White House?


A Small Part Of The Brain, And Its Profound Effects

According to neuroscientists who study it, the insula is a long-neglected brain region that has emerged as crucial to understanding what it feels like to be human.

They say it is the wellspring of social emotions, things like lust and disgust, pride and humiliation, guilt and atonement. It helps give rise to moral intuition, empathy and the capacity to respond emotionally to music.

Its anatomy and evolution shed light on the profound differences between humans and other animals.


Study Reveals Indulgent Lifestyles; Christians 'No Different'

A new Barna Group survey measured the type of lifestyles Americans live. Results showed they live one of sacrifice and of self-indulgence. And the story is not that much different for born-again Christians.


'Holy Relic' Ad Angers Russians

The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed indignation at an attempt to sell a skull and bone allegedly belonging to Saint Philipp.


Religion, Science At Center Of Harvard Overhaul

BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- Harvard University announced Wednesday its biggest curriculum overhaul in three decades, putting new emphasis on sensitive religious and cultural issues, the sciences and overcoming U.S. "parochialism."


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ancient Boy's Skeleton Sparks Evolution Debate

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Deep in the dusty, unlit corridors of Kenya's national museum, locked away in a plain-looking cabinet, is one of mankind's oldest relics: Turkana Boy, as he is known, the most complete skeleton of a prehistoric human ever found.

But his first public display later this year is at the heart of a growing storm -- one pitting scientists against Kenya's powerful and popular evangelical Christian movement. The debate over evolution vs. creationism -- once largely confined to the United States -- has arrived in a country known as the cradle of mankind.


Panel Discussion On Atheism Where No Atheists Are Included

I had previously posted on this episode of CNN's Paula Zahn Now, but now I have the link to the video....

Watch it HERE.

Give Us Back Our Bones, Pagans Tell Museums

British museums have become used to requests that foreign treasures be repatriated. Greece has persistently requested the return of the Parthenon marbles, while some administrators have agreed to return the remains of Australian Aborigines. Now the pressure is coming from closer to home.

British pagan groups are increasingly asking for human remains and grave goods from pre-Christian burials to be returned to them as well. The presence of what they see as their ancestors in dusty drawers or under harsh display lights is an affront to their religion. To them, the bones are living beings, whose existence is bound up with their religious descendants and the sacred land.


Rep. Riddle Expands Legislative Agenda To Include Texas Pledge

AUSTIN - State Representative Debbie Riddle (R- District 150) filed legislation yesterday that would put the phrase "under God" into the Texas pledge.

"The pledge to our nation's flag has long since recognized that we are one nation, under God," Riddle said. "It only seems fitting that the pledge to the flag of our great state, which once stood as a symbol of the Republic of Texas, would make the same recognition."

Under the proposal, HB 1034, the pledge would read "I pledge allegiance to the thee, Texas, one state under God and indivisible."

Representative Richard Raymond (D- Laredo) and Senator Dan Patrick (R- Houston) have already passed measures this session to mandate that both houses of the legislature post the motto "In God We Trust" in their respective chambers.


Ted Haggard Begins Spiritual Rehabilitation Process

Following US evangelical leader Ted Haggard's recent confession of "sexual immorality", the disgraced pastor has agreed to a rehabilitation process that could last three to five years.


See also:

Pastor: God Used Haggard Accuser 'To Correct Us'


Haggard convinced he's 'completely heterosexual,' minister says


Minister: Haggard certain he's 'completely heterosexual'

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Anonymous Sects

Recently, the distinction between Shiites and Sunnis has become more prominent in Bush administration rhetoric. Dr. Vali Nasr briefed Bush on the religious divide last year. He explains why Bush's newfound understanding of sectarianism may be too little, too late.


Endless Universe Made Possible By New Model

Science Daily - A new cosmological model demonstrates the universe can endlessly expand and contract, providing a rival to Big Bang theories and solving a thorny modern physics problem, according to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill physicists.


'Honour Killers' Expect To Walk Free

Mohammad Aslam and Maqbool Ahmad admit killing their sister Elahisen and a neighbour, Ghulam Nabi Shah, when they found them together in Elahisen's room on the night of 27 January.

They smashed their skulls with a brick and then strangled them with a rope. Then they gave themselves up to the police saying they had redeemed their family honour.

The event has a familiar ring to it.

According to official figures, more than 2,700 women and about 1,300 men have been killed in honour-related offences in Pakistan since 2001.

Human rights organisations put the number much higher, saying that most honour crimes are never reported to the police.


Their Struggle Put A Face On Clergy Abuse

For thousands of people, the memories came flooding back five years ago when John Geoghan, a defrocked Boston priest, was accused of serial child molestation. Geoghan's trial - he was convicted and imprisoned - shed light on one of the worst scandals in the history of the Catholic Church. It also freed many victims of clergy sexual abuse from the bonds of silence. Today, the victims of clergy sexual abuse call themselves survivors. Among them are Chris McCafferty of St. Petersburg and Diane McKenzie of Palm Harbor. He still embraces the church. She wants to but does not yet feel she can.


Iowa Priest Faces Sexual Abuse Charge

OMAHA, Neb. -- An Iowa priest has been placed on leave after a student made allegations of sexual abuse.


He Calls Himself God

A Puerto Rican minister says Christ 'integrated' with him. Others call him a cult leader and a charlatan.


A Game Of Magical Thinking Leaves Reality On The Sidelines

"Rationally, you should not feel responsible at all for the outcome of the Super Bowl," Pronin said. "But the more people perceived themselves as having thought about the game, the more they thought themselves responsible for the game's outcome."

A sports event such as the Super Bowl is a perfect venue to examine a phenomenon that influences many aspects of life: Large numbers of people regularly display signs of magical thinking -- they believe they have influenced distant events or can sense connections between things that have no known physical connection.


Monday, February 05, 2007

No Sanctuary For Super Bowl Flock

They were expecting a big crowd this Sunday at Farmland Friends Church in rural Indiana.

The sanctuary would be decked in blue and white streamers, the card tables groaning with sloppy-Joe fixings and bowls of chips. Best of all, the pews would be packed with scores of the faithful: men, women and children, shoulder to shoulder, hooting at a jumbo screen as their beloved Indianapolis Colts coasted - God willing - to victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

It was to have been a wholesome evening of fellowship and football.

And it would have been illegal.


Church Destroyed, But Worship Goes On After Tornado

LADY LAKE, Florida (CNN) -- Under sunny skies, members of the Church of God in Lady Lake, Florida, held their morning worship service Sunday amid the remnants of their destroyed sanctuary, leveled by a pre-dawn tornado on Friday.

"I'd like everybody to take a deep breath, and let everybody who has breath today praise God," said Pastor Larry Lynn.


Tolerating Intolerance Is Still This Country's Besetting Sin

If the majority of Muslims truly want to integrate, they could start by kicking out the preachers of hatred from their mosques.


Taking The Fight To Islam

In 1989, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali Muslim, supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. But on moving to Europe her views changed and she turned against Islam. Two years ago she fled Holland after the brutal murder of her artistic collaborator Theo van Gogh. Who is this fierce critic who lives under the constant threat of death?


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Jesus Fancy Dress Kit 'Is A Crime'

The Vatican acted yesterday to condemn the sale of Jesus Christ fancy dress kits, which can be bought within walking distance of St Peter's Basilica.


Interior Ministry Estimates 1,000 Killed In One Week

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi Interior Ministry estimates that about 1,000 people have been killed throughout Iraq in the past week due to gunbattles, drive-by shootings and bomb attacks, a ministry official said Sunday.


At Least 130 Die As Blast Levels Baghdad Market

BAGHDAD, Sunday, Feb. 4 -- A mammoth truck bomb obliterated a popular central Baghdad market on Saturday, ripping through scores of shops and flattening apartment buildings, killing at least 130 people and wounding more than 300 in the worst of a series of horrific attacks against Shiites in recent weeks.


Iraq's Shadow Widens Sunni-Shiite Split In U.S.

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Twice recently, vandals have shattered windows at three mosques and a dozen businesses popular among Shiite Muslims along Warren Avenue, the spine of the Arab community here.


Two From Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Oklahoma Commandments Display Sends Message Of Religious Intolerance, Says Americans United


Taxpayers Should Be Allowed To Challenge Bush 'Faith-Based' Office, Americans United Tells Supreme Court

Cross Removal Stirs Va. College Campus

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) - As a Catholic, Vince Haley often went to Mass at the College of William and Mary's historic Wren Chapel when he was an undergraduate in the 1980s. Also a Catholic, school President Gene R. Nichol often goes to the 120-seat chapel alone at night to think in the quiet.

Both agree the chapel is a sacred space meaningful to students, alumni, faculty and staff of the public school who use it for religious services and secular events.

They clash, though, over what to do with an unadorned, 18-inch brass cross that had been displayed on the altar since about 1940.

Nichol ordered the cross removed in October to make the chapel more welcoming to students of all faiths. Previously, the cross could be removed by request; now it can be returned by request.


Court: He Had A Right To Curse

DETROIT, Michigan (AP) -- An officer who arrested a man for cursing in a public meeting violated the man's right to free speech, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.


The Chronicles Of Kearnya

It will no doubt pain him to hear this, but the ongoing saga of David Paszkiewicz - the Kearny High School teacher who got caught using his classroom as a pulpit for Christianist wingnuttery - has been an object lesson in the workings of evolution, in terms of the Kearny school board's response.


U.S. 'Satisfied' With Religion's Public Role, But More Want Less

WASHINGTON -- For the third consecutive year, the number of Americans calling for less religious influence in public life exceeded the number of Americans who want more, according to a new Gallup poll.


Priests Leave Pope's Doctrines Outside Confessional

A yawning gulf between the stern doctrines preached by Pope Benedict and the advice offered by ordinary Roman Catholic priests has been exposed by an Italian magazine which dispatched reporters to 24 churches around Italy where, in the confessional, they sought rulings on various moral dilemmas.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Children's Foreheads Slashed In Muslim Saint's Name

NABATIYEH, Lebanon (AP) -- The 6-year-old boy screamed and shook his head to avoid the razor blade. But his father held him firmly as Hajj Khodor parted the boy's black hair and sliced his forehead three times with the blade.

Ali Madani's cries became more violent as blood gushed from the wound, covering his small, terrified face.

His father and a few other men, waving daggers, broke into a religious chant, recalling how the 7th-century Shiite Muslim saint, Imam Hussein, was decapitated, his head placed on a lance.

In marking the holiest day of Ashura, some Shiites believe children should learn at an early age about Hussein's suffering, which is at the heart of their faith.


Nightline Covers The Blasphemy Challenge

More coverage of The Blasphemy Challenge on ABC's Nightline HERE.

Government Discrimination Against Atheists

I had previously posted on State Constitutions that Discriminate Against Atheists.

Today, someone brought this to my attention:




Chapter 272: Section 36. Blasphemy

Section 36. Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.

This was from The General Laws of Massachusetts.

Sextuplet Parents Take B.C. To Court Over Baby Seizures

The Vancouver parents of sextuplets born in January are now in a legal battle with the province, claiming the government violated their religious rights when social workers seized three of their newborns to give them blood transfusions.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Arguing For Atheism

Two new reviews of Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion HERE.

Rand & Russell

Today is the birthday of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand (February 2, 1905 - March 6, 1982).

According to Wikipedia:

Rand's writing emphasizes the philosophic concepts of metaphysics (objective reality), epistemology (reason) and ethics (rational egoism). Politically, she was a proponent of laissez-faire capitalism and a staunch defender of individual rights. She believed in government's right to exist only insofar that it protected an individual's right to his life, liberty and property. Rand argued that individuals must choose their values and actions by reason; that "Man - every man - is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others." According to Rand, an individual "must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life."

Rand decried the initiation of force and fraud, and believed that government had a responsibility to protect its citizens both from criminal behavior and foreign hostility (economic and military). Some have described her politics as minarchism and libertarianism, though she never used the first term and disavowed any connection to the second.

Rand, a self-described hero-worshiper, stated in the Romantic Manifesto that the goal of her writing was "the projection of an ideal man." In reference to Objectivism, she said the following: "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." - Ayn Rand, Appendix to Atlas Shrugged

Also according to Wikipedia:

Objectivism holds that there is a mind-independent reality; that individuals are in contact with this reality through sensory perception; that humans gain objective knowledge from perception by measurement, and by forming concepts that correspond to natural categories by measurement omission; that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or "rational self-interest;" that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual human rights, embodied in pure, consensual laissez-faire capitalism; and that the role of art in human life is to transform abstract knowledge, by selective reproduction of reality, into a physical form - a work of art - that one can apprehend and respond to with the whole of one's consciousness.

Ayn Rand was once asked if she could present the essence of Objectivism while standing on one foot. Her answer was:

Metaphysics: Objective Reality
Epistemology: Reason
Ethics: Self-interest
Politics: Capitalism

She then translated those terms into familiar language:

"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed."
"You can't eat your cake and have it, too."
"Man is an end in himself."
"Give me liberty or give me death."

While I don't entirely agree with Ayn Rand's philosophy, we do share some ideas in common, I will save my analysis for another time.

She was very taken with the New York City skyline upon her arrival in the US. There is one quote from The Fountainhead that I found particularly moving in the aftermath of 9-11:

"I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline, the sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body."

Today also marks the anniversary of the death of Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872 - February 2, 1970). Russell was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, and advocate for social reform. Russell is recognised as one of the founders of analytic philosophy. He also had a great influence on mathematical logic, the philosophy of language, ethics, the philosophy of science, and epistemology.

Russell's most systematic, metaphysical treatment of philosophical analysis and his empiricist-centric logicism is evident in what he called Logical atomism.

Russell's views on religion can be found in his popular book, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects.

Once again, according to Wikipedia:

For most of his adult life, however, Russell thought it very unlikely that there was a God, and he maintained that religion is little more than superstition and, despite any positive effects that religion might have, it is largely harmful to people. He believed religion and the religious outlook (he considered communism and other systematic ideologies to be species of religion) serve to impede knowledge, foster fear and dependency, and are responsible for much of the war, oppression, and misery that have beset the world.

I couldn't agree more.