Monday, December 31, 2007

The Outer Solar System Remains Mysterious

The farthest reaches of our solar system remain the most mysterious areas around the sun. Solving the mysteries of the outer solar system could shed light on how the whole thing emerged -- as well as how life on Earth was born.


See also:

Space shots: New worlds

Same-Sex Couples Ready For N.H. Civil Unions

CONCORD, New Hampshire -- New Hampshire is becoming the fourth U.S. state to legalize civil unions and about 20 couples decided to be the first to take advantage of the new law with a late-night ceremony on the Statehouse steps.


Pakistan Elections Likely To Be Delayed

(CBS/AP) Elections in Pakistan look set to be delayed by several weeks despite demands by the party of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and other politicians they take place as scheduled on Jan. 8, officials said Monday.


See also:

New video appears to show Bhutto being shot

Lawyer: Police prevented Bhutto autopsy

U.S. reportedly urged Bhutto to be more careful

At Least 16 Dead In Attacks In Iraq

Baghdad - Bomb attacks on Monday killed at least 16 people, including two Iraqi soldiers, in one of the most violent days in recent weeks even as Iraqi security forces stepped up their operations against insurgents across the country.

In the deadliest attack, a truck bomb exploded at a checkpoint manned by neighborhood security volunteers in the Tarmiya area north of Baghdad. The blast killed at least five volunteers, who are members of a Sunni Arab tribe that has turned against the insurgency in recent months. At least four children were also killed in the explosion. Tarmiya was once a stronghold of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

In the restive Diyala province 60 miles north of the capital explosions killed five people and a woman detonated an explosive vest wounding at least five people in Baquba.


See also:

U.S. troops target al Qaeda suspects, killing six

2007 was deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq

Iraq Progresses To Some Of Its Worst

Iraq marks one year since Hussein's execution

Petraeus: Iraq security fragile, gains reversible


"Analysis: Violence in Abrahamic faiths"

Men Jailed In Sudan For Selling Book On Mohammed's Child-Bride

( - A Sudanese court reportedly has sentenced two Egyptian men to six months' imprisonment for harming Islam after they marketed a book deemed critical of one of Mohammed's wives.


See also:

Submission, 'Part 1' (YouTube Video)

Northern Iraqi women increasingly attempting suicide

Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade In Syria

Malaysia Reverses Allah Paper Ban

The Malaysian government has reversed a decision to ban a Christian newspaper using the word Allah to refer to God.


Vatican Denies Exorcist Expansion

VATICAN CITY (UPI) -- The Vatican is denying reports it plans to install more exorcists around the world so possessed people can get help quickly.



Pope's exorcist squads will wage war on Satan

A War On Science

A video covering the rise of Intelligent Design through the lens of the Dover trial is HERE.

See also:

The Top 10 Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths)

Monkey, Business

The theme of Michael Shermer's new book is a graceful paradox. Decades of study of behavioral psychology, neuroscience and genetics, layered over more than a century of evolutionary studies, proves that we're not completely rational in making economic choices. But an understanding of our fascinating limitations, which Shermer provides, makes us freer than we were before we knew of them.


Shermer easily demolishes another myth about both evolution and economics: that both depend exclusively on cutthroat, bloody-handed "survival of the fittest" competition to weed out the weakest creatures and companies. While competition obviously plays a vital part in the markets and in evolution, both primates and markets have evolved to depend on cooperation. Just as those among our hunter-gatherer ancestors who couldn't cooperate in small societies risked punishment, including exile and death, today's citizens, including top business executives, cooperate and complement each other across industry to serve customers as readily as they compete within a particular industry. People who can't cooperate often face exile from the business world.



It is possible to be moral without God by Bishop Richard Harries

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Purported Bin Laden Message Has Warnings For Iraq, Israel

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Osama bin Laden warned Iraq's Sunni Arabs against fighting al Qaeda and vowed to expand the terror group's holy war to Israel in a new audiotape Saturday, threatening "blood for blood, destruction for destruction."


'In God' Returning To $1 Coin Prominence

WASHINGTON (BP)--Presidential one dollar coins are the only U.S. coins currently being issued by the United States Mint that have the inscription "In God We Trust" along the edge, but public pressure soon may send the motto back to the front or back of the coins.


'Very Religious Community' Gets Rid Of 666 Phone Prefix

REEVES, La. -- After decades of living with what Mayor Scott Walker calls a stigma, residents of this southwest Louisiana village are getting a new telephone exchange, one without the biblical connotations attached to their current 666.


Malaysia Faces Christian Outcry Over Word "Allah"

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian Catholic newspaper and church groups cried foul on Friday over a government move to forbid non-Muslims from using the word Allah.


Pope's Exorcist Squads Will Wage War On Satan

The Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of Satanism.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Jets Spiral In 'Reverse Whirlpool' From Star

Astronomers have observed for the first time a jet of matter spiraling outward from an infant star, as if a lengthy strand of curly pasta.


[His noodly appendage?]

See also:

The Winter Sky: Planets, Stars and Cool Shapes

Ancient Pyramid Found In Central Mexico City

MEXICO CITY -- Archeologists have discovered the ruins of an 800-year-old Aztec pyramid in the heart of the Mexican capital that could show the ancient city is at least a century older than previously thought.

Mexican archeologists found the ruins, which are about 36 feet high, in the central Tlatelolco area, once a major religious and political center for the Aztec elite.


Making A Martyr Of Bhutto

Just days before parliamentary polls in Pakistan, leading prime ministerial contender and anti-terrorism crusader Benazir Bhutto was shot dead during an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad. "She has been martyred," said party official Rehman Malik. The Associated Press, citing Malik, reported that Bhutto was shot in the neck and the chest before the gunman blew himself up. At least 20 bystanders were killed in the blast. Bhutto was rushed to a hospital But, at 6:16 p.m. Pakistan time, she was declared dead.


See also:

Main suspects are warlords and security forces

Slain Bhutto's supporters take anger to the streets

U.S. Checking al Qaeda Claim of Killing Bhutto

Pakistan accuses al Qaeda of killing Bhutto

Pakistan: al-Qaida Behind Bhutto Killing

U.S. suspects Taliban leader behind Bhutto plot

Grief, anger after a voice is stilled

How did Pakistan's Bhutto die?

Bhutto Conspiracy Theories Fill the Air

More than 30 dead in Bhutto protests

Obituary: Benazir Bhutto, 54, Weathered Political Storm

U.S. fears spillover into Afghanistan

U.S.-Led Forces Target Militants

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S.-led coalition forces killed an estimated 11 "terrorists" early Thursday, during operations targeting criminal networks in southeastern Iraq, a statement from Multi-National Force - Iraq said.

And a hidden bomb exploded inside a minibus in eastern Baghdad's Baladiyat neighborhood Thursday morning, killing two passengers, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.


See also:

Car bomb in Baghdad market kills 14

Bin Laden To Send Web Message On Iraq

Iraqi hairdressers forced underground

Brad Stine's 'GodMen': Promise Keepers On Steroids

According to OneNewsNow, a news service sponsored by the American Family Association, Stine, who is an oft-featured speaker at Promise Keeper conferences, "states he is on a 'mission' to free his fellow Christians from 'the chains of political correctness.'" "In a country with guaranteed rights to freedom of religion, its citizens are constantly trying to make faith in public spheres illegal. I am offended by that contradiction and want to talk about it as a comic," Stine told OneNewsNow.


Priests Brawl At Bethlehem Birthplace Of Jesus

Seven people were injured on Thursday when Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests came to blows in a dispute over how to clean the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Following the Christmas celebrations, Greek Orthodox priests set up ladders to clean the walls and ceilings of their part of the church, which is built over the site where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born.

But the ladders encroached on space controlled by Armenian priests, according to photographers who said angry words ensued and blows quickly followed.

For a quarter of an hour bearded and robed priests laid into each other with fists, brooms and iron rods while the photographers who had come to take pictures of the annual cleaning ceremony recorded the whole event.

A dozen unarmed Palestinian policemen were sent to try to separate the priests, but two of them were also injured in the unholy melee.


Carl Sagan's COSMOS Begins Airing On Jan 8th

Carl Sagan's Cosmos will be airing in its entirety beginning January 8th on the Discovery Science Channel in the US, check your local listings.


What We Believe: Atheism

When mortar shells were exploding near Fernando Aguilar in Iraq, he didn't pray to God for help.


'Gospel Of Wealth' Facing Scrutiny

The message flickered into Cindy Fleenor's living room each night: Be faithful in how you live and how you give, the television preachers said, and God will shower you with material riches.


Russia Prohibits Denial Of Santa

The Russian government has banned a television advertisement for denying the existence of Father Christmas.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Polk Needled, Noodled In Evolution Flap

LAKELAND -- Public floggings hurt, even when administered by satirical sacred noodles.

Ask the Polk County School Board. The panel made news last month when five of its seven members declared a personal belief in the concept of intelligent design, the religiously based explanation of the development of life believed in by many Christians.

Four of those five sympathetic board members said they would like to see intelligent design taught in Polk schools as an alternative to Darwinian evolution, at a time when new state standards mentioning evolution by name for the first time are under consideration.

Just like that, it appeared the Darwin wars had found their newest battlefield.

Yet a few weeks later, the controversy is dying with a whimper. There's no board support for a challenge to the proposed standards. Some of the five school board members blame the local newspaper for trying to start a fight.

"It's not our agenda," said Tim Harris, one of the board members. "My personal opinion and how I vote don't always jibe."

What happened? You can start with the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The satirical religious Web site asserts that an omnipotent, airborne clump of spaghetti intelligently designed all life with the deft touch of its "noodly appendage." Adherents call themselves Pastafarians. They deluged Polk school board members with e-mail demanding equal time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism's version of intelligent design.

"They've made us the laughingstock of the world," said Margaret Lofton, a school board member who supports intelligent design. She dismissed the e-mail as ridiculous and insulting.


USA TODAY: Year In Science Review

From the largest scales (global climate) to the smallest (cell research), this was a year punctuated by significant developments in science. USA TODAY highlights the findings.


See also:

The enduring mysteries of comets

International robotic rivalry in space

Modern beetles predate dinosaurs

Laptop project enlivens Peruvian village

More Than 8 Out Of 10 Americans Identify With A Christian Faith

About 82% of Americans in 2007 told Gallup interviewers that they identified with a Christian religion.

Neport breaks it down: "51% who said they were Protestant, 5% who were "other Christian," 23% Roman Catholic, and 3% who named another Christian faith, including 2% Mormon."

Coming in at 11% were those who claimed no religious identity at all, and another 2% didn't answer.


Time has shown a shift in religious camps. The new Gallup shows that the percentage of Americans who identify with a Christian religion is down some over the decades.

It is due to the higher percentage of Americans today who don't claim a religious identity.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jo Saturnalia!

SaturnaliaWinter solstice

Winter Solstice Celebrations

List of winter festivals


Natalis Solis Invicti


The History of Christmas

All About the Christmas Tree

The Origins of the Christmas Tree

Myths surrounding Jesus' birth

Two Bombs Hit Iraqi Cities Killing At Least 34

BAGHDAD, Dec. 25 -- Two bombs in separate Iraqi cities ripped through crowds of people Tuesday, causing some of the worst carnage in the country in recent weeks and revealing that -- despite the relative calm of recent months -- insurgent groups remain capable of devastating attacks.


Monday, December 24, 2007

MRFF Vs. The Campus Crusade For Christ

You can quickly familiarize yourself with Campus Crusade for Christ's Military Ministry by reading the report on the Military Religious Freedom (MRFF) website....

This report contains details about the Campus Crusade Military Ministry hierarchy, their goal (which they're already well on their way to achieving) of using our military to create "government-paid missionaries for Christ," and a number of quotes from this organization. Much of this story is about two Campus Crusade videos, one filmed at the Air Force Academy, and the Campus Crusade program of indoctrinating basic trainees through their "gateway" ministry at Fort Jackson, the largest Army basic training facility.



The Anti-Crusader

Disquiet Over Schools' Moment Of Silence

A family of Illinois atheists is fighting to overturn a law requiring time for students' quiet reflection. The father and daughter say it mandates prayer.


FFRF Files Suit Against Green Bay Creche

(Madison, Wis.) The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog, filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the unlawful display of a manger scene at the entrance of city hall in Green Bay, Wis. (Since federal offices are closed on Dec. 24, the Foundation has mailed its lawsuit to be received by Dec. 26 by the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin.)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation v. City of Green Bay includes 12 individual plaintiffs of diverse religious and nonreligious views, and additionally names Green Bay City Council President Chad Fradette and Jim Schmitt, Mayor of Green Bay.

"Our legal action was driven by local residents," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president. "Many Green Bay citizens contacted us over their dismay that city government would thumb its nose at the constitutional principle of state/church separation, and deliberately provoke a divisive controversy in Green Bay."

"We're grateful not just to our named plaintiffs, who include Foundation members, but also a Lutheran, a Buddhist, and a Unitarian Universalist, and to many others who volunteered to be part of the lawsuit if needed," said Foundation co-president Dan Barker.

The legal complaint spells out the chronology of the Green Bay violation, which involved the Council president vowing to place a nativity scene at city hall because the Foundation had complained about an unlawful nativity display in Pestigo, Wis.

"Council President Fradette deliberately used his public office to place an inherently Christian symbol prominently on government property at the entrance to City Hall, the principal location of local government, rather than on his private property, precisely in order to antagonize, offend and challenge those persons who object to the public sponsorship of religious symbols on public property."

The Complaint alleges an open records violation at the Dec. 11 meeting in which a committee chaired by Fradette approved his request to prominently place the nativity scene on the roof of the entrance.

"Public and private communications by the Defendants reflect their intent to provoke and marginalize persons who do not share their views regarding the public display and promotion of religion by the City," the Complaint adds.

The Complaint notes the subsequent vote by the City Council to place a moratorium on the public display of any religious symbols other than the Christian Nativity scene, which "preferentially conveys endorsement, promotion and/or advancement of religion."

Among the plaintiffs are Taku Ronsman and Wendy Coriell, who sought unsuccessfully to place other symbols at city hall, and Michael Bergman, who had expressed concern to the city over the Christian endorsement and wondered if he could display a Buddhist symbol to coincide with a major Buddhist holiday in May.

The Foundation Complaint charges that "objectors and dissenters are shown to be political outsiders and discouraged from challenging the official view that public sponsorship of religious displays is an appropriate exercise of government authority."

"The Defendants' actions constitute government speech deliberately intended to be broadcast as officially accepted dogma, and which hostile message is intentionally directed at political outsiders," the Complaint continues.

Besides the Foundation, plaintiffs are: Wendy Coriell, Michael Bergman, Gail and Wayne Vann, Taku Ronsman, James White, Jill White, Jeffrey Fondrliak, Robert Howe, Amy Wolf, Michael Maternowski and Angie Moon. (Note: The Complaint has a typo. Ms. Ronsman's first name is spelled "Taku.")

The Legal Complaint can be read at:

Muslims Could Be Key To Kenya Election

KIBERA, Kenya (AP) -- In the Kenyan slum of Kibera these days, the ancient cadences of the Muslim call to prayer compete with election propaganda blaring from loudspeakers.


Mosque Besieged In Kashmir

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir (CNN) -- A standoff at a mosque in the disputed territory of Kashmir is continuing with three militants holding a pair of hostages, police told CNN.


Turks Foil Bomb Attack

(CNN) -- Turkish authorities said they foiled an apparent bomb attack in Istanbul on Monday when they discovered plastic bags with explosives near a ticket stand.


In A Force For Iraqi Calm, Seeds Of Conflict

BAGHDAD -- The thin teenage boy rushed up to the patrol of American soldiers walking through Dora, a shrapnel-scarred neighborhood of the capital, and lifted his shirt to show them a mass of red welts across his back.

He said he was a member of a local Sunni "Awakening" group, paid by the American military to patrol the district, but he said it was another Awakening group that beat him. "They took me while I was working," he said, "and broke my badge and said, 'You are from Al Qaeda.'"


Dawkins To Preach Atheism To US

RICHARD DAWKINS, the British scientist who has become the high priest of atheism, is launching a crusade in America to win new recruits to the church of nonbelievers.

He is to embark on a lecture tour of 2,000-seater halls in the Bible Belt and the Midwest in the wake of the presidential primary season, which reaches its climax in early February.


Priest Who Committed Suicide For Rebirth Cremated

Raipur -- A three-day "miracle" drama in Chhattisgarh's industrial town of Raigarh ended on Monday afternoon after a Hindu priest, who had committed suicide promising to return to life within 72 hours of his death, was cremated.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Godless X-mas Party

If you don't have a special get-together planned for this coming Monday night, pour a goblet of your favorite potion, saunter on up to the computer and spend a very special evening with Edwin Kagin and other non-believers across the country for the First Annual...


The fun begins at 8:00 PM ET with special guests and a toll-free number you can call to share thoughts, gripes, suggestions and anything else on your mind relevant to the X-MAS season.

Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists and Fred Edwords, Contributing Editor at the American Humanist Association (AHA) will be guests.

Other guests will include:

ARLENE-MARIE, Michigan State Director, American Atheists
ED BUCKNER, Atlanta Freethought Society
TOM FLYNN, Council for Secular Humanism

It's all airing on the hot new internet radio program "Answers in Atheism" at . Call Toll Free 877.814.9287 or local 859.384.7000 , or email to

Edwin Kagin is National Legal Director for American Atheists. He and wife Helen Kagin are co-founders of Camp Quest, a national summer camp program for the children of Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists and other non-believers.

Kagin On PBS News Hour

EDWIN KAGIN, National Legal Director for American Atheists, will be a guest this Monday (December 24, 2007) on the PBS program "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer." Mr. Kagin will be discussing the legal and cultural battle over the "Christmas" holiday, claims that America is a "Christian nation," and other topics.

The program airs at different times throughout the country, but in the East the show is carried at 6:00 PM ET on most PBS channels. Check local listings, or visit for information on the station nearest you.

Scientists Inscribe Entire Bible On Head Of A Pin

JERUSALEM - Israeli scientists have inscribed the entire Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible onto a space less than half the size of grain of sugar.


Baby Jesus Statue Gets GPS For Christmas

(AP) A baby Jesus statue here is getting a Global Positioning System for Christmas. The statue, part of a nativity scene, will be equipped with the device after the previous statue went missing, even though it had been bolted down.

"I don't anticipate this will ever happen again," said Dina Cellini, who oversees the display, "but we may need to rely on technology to save our savior."


See also:

He Died For Your Mastercard

Rampaging Santas strike New Zealand cinema

Shiite Leaders Oppose Expansion Of U.S.-Backed Citizens Groups

BAGHDAD -- The leader of Iraq's most powerful Shiite Muslim political party warned Friday that the security organizations that American officials credit with helping to cut violence in Iraq must be brought under control.

Abdulaziz al Hakim, the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, became the latest Iraqi leader to raise concerns that the U.S.-financed groups, which are predominantly Sunni Muslim and known as awakening councils or "concerned local citizens," could become a potent army capable of challenging the U.S.-backed Shiite-dominated central government.


See also:

Sunni Fighters Need Political Role

Saudi Arrests 28 Terror Suspects

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabian police have arrested 28 men for allegedly planning to attack holy sites around Mecca and Medina during the recently finished Muslim hajj pilgrimage, the kingdom's Interior Ministry said Sunday.

The announcement comes two days after the ministry said it arrested an unknown number of men after security forces foiled a plot to carry out a terror attack on holy sites outside Mecca. But Sunday's statement did not say whether the two arrests were related.


6 Dead In Northern Pakistan Attack

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A suicide bombing attack on a military convoy killed at least five civilians and one soldier Sunday in troubled northwestern Pakistan, an army spokesman and police said.

Thirteen soldiers and four civilians were also wounded in the attack in the town of Mingora in Swat district, where security forces have carried out several operations against followers of a pro-Taliban radical Islamic cleric, Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad told The Associated Press.


See also:

After murder, Gaza's Christians keep low profile

Alone, Afraid, In the Company of Men Dreaming of Death

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter Solstice Today - 12/22/07

According to Wikipedia:

"The winter solstice occurs at the instant when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane as the observer. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the event of the Winter solstice occurs sometime between December 20 and 23 each year in the Northern hemisphere, and between June 20 and 23 in the Southern Hemisphere, and the winter solstice occurs during either the shortest day or the longest night of the year (not to be confused with the darkest day or nights). Though the Winter Solstice lasts an instant, the term is also used to refer to the full 24-hour period.

"Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time....

"On the night of Winter Solstice, as seen from a northern sky, the three stars in Orion's belt align with the brightest star in the Eastern sky Sirius to show where the Sun will rise in the morning after Winter Solstice. Until this time, the Sun has exhibited since Summer Solstice a decreasing arc across the Southern sky. On Winter Solstice, the Sun ceased to decline in the sky and the length of daylight reaches its minimum for three days. At such a time, the Sun begins its ascent and days grow longer. Thus the interpretation by many cultures of a sun reborn and a return to light. This return to light is again celebrated (at the vernal equinox, when the length of day equals that of night."


A partial list of holidays/festivals (past and present) occurring around the Winter Solstice:

Zagmuk, Sacaea. Saturnalia, Yuletide, Sankranti, Brumalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Hanukkah, Alban Arthuan/Midwinter, Finn's Day, Festival of Sol, Festival of the New Sun, Festival of Growth, Great Day of the Cauldron, Dong Zhi, Nollaig, Juul, Jul, Jiueis, Jol, Joulu, Joulupukki, Children's Day, Festival of Kronos, Kallikantzaroi, Karkantzaroi, Dazh Boh, Chaomos, Inti Raymi, Soyal, Sada, Touji, Geol, Feailly Geul, Modra-niht, Giuli, Iol, J--lmnu_r, Shass Greiney Geuree, Yn Ad-Gheurey, Divalia, Larentalia, Sigillaria, Midvinterblot, Touji, if Inti Raymi, Shabe-Yalda, Sviatki, Koleda, Choimus, Soyalangwul, Diwali, Sadeh, Adur-Jashan, Maidyarem, Shab e Cheleh, Novo Hel, Nollaig, Pongal, Modranetc, Yalda, Karachun, St. Thomas' Day, Christmas (Xmas), The Festival of the Long Night, Wintervil, Zamenhof Day, Festivus, Human Light, Chrismukkah, Giftmas, Newtonmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Lenaea (Festival of the Wild Women).

Some of the god-men that were supposedly born around this time:

Adonia, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus, Theseus, Jesus, and King Arthur.

See also:

Dates and Times of Equinoxes and Solstices

Iraqi Gov't Pledges To Disband Sunnis

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's Shiite-led government declared Saturday that after restive areas are calmed it will disband Sunni groups battling Islamic extremists because it does not want them to become a separate military force.


Santa On Cross Protests Commercialism

(AP) Art Conrad has an issue with the commercialism of Christmas, and his protest has gone way beyond just shunning the malls or turning off his television. The Bremerton resident nailed Santa Claus to a 15-foot crucifix in front of his house.

"Santa has been perverted from who he started out to be," Conrad said. "Now he's the person being used by corporations to get us to buy more stuff."

A photo of the crucified Santa adorns his Christmas cards, with the message "Santa died for your MasterCard."


Muslim Rite Of Sacrifice Collides With Law

PRINCETON, N.C. -- For six years, it has been a tradition for Muslims in the Research Triangle: After morning services on the first day of Eid al-Adha -- the "festival of sacrifice" -- scores of families leave the tweedy environs of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill and head toward an obscure plot of land on a two-lane country road.

They come to visit Eddie Rowe, a hog farmer.

The children typically run around among Rowe's loose chickens. The women prepare picnic sandwiches. And the patriarch of each family awaits his turn to slit the throat of a lamb or a goat that Rowe has sold him.


200 Protesters Turn Up To Support Capo Teacher

MISSION VIEJO -- To an almost continuous stream of blaring car horns and cheering, more than 200 Capistrano Valley High School students and alumni rallied outside their school Wednesday morning to show support for embattled history teacher James Corbett, who is being sued by one of his students for making remarks about Christianity and traditional Christian viewpoints in class.


Eagle Scout Ordered To Take God Out Of Park Project

ARVADA - Fourteen-year-old Jonathan Griesinger says he wanted people to think about the origins of the universe when they stroll by his planetary walk along Van Bibber Creek.

A jogger disagreed.

Griesinger designed and installed a series of 10 stones along the trail through the Stenger Athletic Complex. The first represents the sun and the rest are engraved with the names of the nine planets. The stones are spaced in proportion to the planets' actual distances from the sun. Pluto, the farthest stone, is about a half-mile from the starting point near 58th Avenue and Oak Street.

Griesinger also placed an 11th stone that he has been ordered to remove. The stone is engraved with a Bible verse that says, "The heavens declare the glory of God."


Hindus Protest Use Of Gods On Underwear

New Delhi - India's eastern state of Orissa has lodged a protest with the US government seeking action against a California-based website for hurting religious sentiments of people by selling undergarments with images of Hindu gods, a newspaper reported Friday. Hindu priests and religious groups had slammed the website,, for selling undergarments embellished with faces of several gods and goddesses, including the presiding deities of Jagannath temple, considered among the most sacred Hindu temples in India.


Bible Bashing Dying Out In Kansas

Opinion polls suggest that younger evangelical Christians are falling out of love with the "big causes" their churches have championed in recent years, in particular with opposing abortion and supporting the Iraq war.


Survey Finds Most Americans Believe Jesus Born Of Virgin

--69 percent of adults believed Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

--68 percent believed Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed a crowd of 5,000.

--64 percent believed the Earth was covered by a flood in which Noah, his family, and numerous animals were spared by living on an Ark.

--56 percent expressed literal belief in the Bible account of the devil, disguised a serpent, tempting Eve to eat forbidden fruit.

--49 percent accepted as accurate the Bible story of Samson losing his legendary strength when Delilah had his hair cut.


Friday, December 21, 2007

FreeThoughtAction Hero Of The Day - 12/21/07

Frank Zappa Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 - December 4, 1993)

According to Wikipedia, Zappa "was an American composer, musician, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa established himself as a prolific and highly distinctive composer, electric guitar player and band leader. He worked in almost every musical genre and wrote music for rock bands, jazz ensembles, synthesizers and symphony orchestra, as well as musique concrete works constructed from pre-recorded, synthesized or sampled sources. In addition to his music recordings, he created feature-length and short films, music videos, and album covers....

"Zappa self-produced almost every one of the more than sixty albums he released with the Mothers of Invention or as a solo artist. He received multiple Grammy nominations and won for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1988 for the album Jazz from Hell. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. In 2005, his 1968 album with the Mothers of Invention, We're Only in It for the Money, was inducted into the United States National Recording Preservation Board's National Recording Registry. The same year, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #71 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2007, his birthtown Baltimore declared August 9 official 'Frank Zappa Day' in his honor.

"Politically, Zappa was a self-proclaimed 'practical conservative', an avowed supporter of capitalism and independent business. He was also a strident critic of mainstream education and organized religion."

Some Zappa Quotes:

The biggest threat to America today is not Communism, it's moving America to a fascist theocracy.

My best advice to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: Keep him or her as far away from a church as you can.

Scientology, how about that? You hold on to the tin cans and then this guy asks you a bunch of questions, and if you pay enough money you get to join the master race. How's that for a religion?

Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST...

My theory is that music is good, it's the only religion that delivers the goods.

Military Evangelism Deeper, Wider Than First Thought

For US Army soldiers entering basic training at Fort Jackson Army base in Columbia, South Carolina, accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior appears to be as much a part of the nine-week regimen as the vigorous physical and mental exercises the troops must endure.


"Our purpose for Campus Crusade for Christ at the Air Force Academy is to make Jesus Christ the issue at the Air Force Academy and around the world," Blom says in the video. "They're government paid missionaries when they leave here."


Inmate Says He Needs Thor's Hammer, Drum

(AP) An inmate is suing the Utah Department of Corrections for denying him his right to practice an ancient Nordic religion while behind bars.


Celebrating With The Christkind

(Tribune Media Services) -- Like a German child's fantasy, Nurnberg's fairy-godmother-like teenage angel stretched out her arms and said, "If you're very, very gentle, you can touch my wings." I stayed seated while little Bavarian preschoolers mobbed the stage to touch their Christkind.


Saudis Foil Plot Against Muslim Pilgrims

(AP) Police arrested a group of men planning to attack holy sites around Mecca during the just-completed annual Muslim pilgrimage, the Saudi Interior Ministry said Friday.


The recent arrests indicate that al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are still actively attempting to destabilize the monarchy, which holds a quarter of the world's proven oil reserves.


Hezbollah Slams Bush's 'Order'

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) -- The militant Hezbollah group denounced President Bush on Friday for urging Lebanon's anti-Syrian lawmakers to push through their own choice for president if necessary to resolve a long political deadlock.


The opposition refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's government because its Shiite members resigned last year and the constitution requires that all sects be represented in the government.


Guantanamo Bay Detainee Accused In Terror Plot

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Guantanamo Bay detainee from Saudi Arabia -- who is also the brother-in-law of a September 11, 2001, hijacker -- faces terrorism charges, the U.S. Office of Military Commissions said Friday.


Belgians Stop Al Qaeda Jail Break

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Police in Belgium arrested 14 Muslim extremists on Friday after uncovering a plot to free an al Qaeda suspect from prison using weapons and explosives.


Exit Her Majesty; Enter Militias

On Sunday, and amid fears of renewed clashes among rival Shia groups, Britain handed over security in the southern city of Basra to local Iraqi authorities. In the past, security handovers in Iraq's southern cities have been followed by assassinations and turbulence. Basra, 580 kilometres south of Baghdad, is unlikely to be an exception. The city is Iraq's only port, produces 70 per cent of the country's oil (and exports 80 per cent of it), and offers opportunities for cross-border trafficking with Iran. Iraqi officials and the Shia parties that control the city vowed to maintain security and cooperate with each other. But reality on the ground appears shaky.


See also:

The Coming Fight for Northern Iraq

Kurds' power share row with Iraqi government

A Modest Proposal on Kirkuk

Torture Chamber Found In Iraq

BAGHDAD - Blood-splotches on walls, chains hanging from a ceiling and swords on the killing floor -- the artifacts left a disturbing tale of brutalities inside a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq torture chamber. But there was yet another chilling fact outside the dirt-floor dungeon. Villagers say they knew about the torment but were too intimidated by extremists to tell authorities until now.


See also:

Iraq 'torture complex' discovered

Iraq Bomber Aimed At Alcohol Sellers

BAGHDAD -- Blood and ouzo mingled on the sidewalk outside a shattered Baghdad liquor store on Thursday after three people were killed in a car bombing directed at alcohol sellers in one of Baghdad's most heavily protected areas.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Historic Civil Rights Group Recognizes Nontheists' Struggle

Washington, DC - The Secular Coalition for America has become the newest member of the oldest and most respected civil rights organization in the United States. As one of eight new members joining the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) this year, the Secular Coalition for America will work with the LCCR in its mission to unite all Americans as one nation true to its promise of equal justice, equal opportunity and mutual respect.

Recognition that the nontheistic minority must be included in the struggle for civil rights marks a milestone. There are several religious groups within LCCR's coalition, but the Secular Coalition for America is the first nontheist (atheists, humanists, and other Americans without a god belief) group to be included. Both organizations agree that religious freedom as protected by the Bill of Rights must also include the freedom to practice no religion.

Secular Coalition Director, Lori Lipman Brown, said, "This decision says as much about the LCCR and its willingness to acknowledge and include nontheists as it does about the Secular Coalition and its recognition of our theistic allies who support our rights."

A total of eight groups were added to the LCCR's coalition at their most recent board meeting: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); Center for Responsible Lending; Citizen's Commission on Civil Rights; DC Vote; Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), Matthew Shepard Foundation; Paralyzed Veterans of America; and the Secular Coalition for America.


Continued Display Of Nativity Scene Is Unconstitutional

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged officials in Green Bay, Wisc., to remove a nativity scene from government property.

The display, Americans United points out, amounts to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government. Although officials in the city initially allowed other religious symbols to be displayed on an overhang of the city hall, they have since voted to allow only the nativity scene to remain with several council members expressing the belief that the city should be able to endorse the religious aspects of Christmas.


Should Parents Tell The Truth About Santa?

It's OK to let your children believe in Santa Claus, psychologists say.


Mars May Replace Rudolph Christmas Eve

(AP) Mars will be unusually bright this Christmas Eve and the moon will be shining full - a development that might make Santa Claus rethink his need for Rudolph's red nose.


See also:

Scientists say asteroid could hit Mars

Priest Pleads Not Guilty In Nude Jogging

(AP) A Catholic priest charged with indecent exposure after being accused of jogging naked in the pre-dawn darkness has pleaded not guilty and asked for a jury trial.


Ask A Terrorist

Behold the latest phase in Al Qaeda's media strategy. The shadowy terror network is offering up Ayman al-Zawahiri, to any journalists with questions for its No. 2 man. The invitation, issued by the group's media arm, As-Sahaab (The Cloud), came at the end of a 90-minute video message from Zawahiri, posted on one of the group's various militant Web pages.


See also:

Bin Laden chauffeur denied POW status

Deadly Bombings Mar Holiday In Iraq

(CBS/AP) Two separate bombings shatter calm of peaceful holiday; 19 dead, including U.S. soldier.


Millions Stone The Devil

Millions of Muslim pilgrims filed along a huge platform Thursday to vigorously hurl pebbles at three pillars symbolizing the devil. The ritual at Mina, Saudi Arabia, commemorates Abraham's stoning of Satan, who is said to have appeared three times to the prophet to tempt him.


35 Killed In Pakistan Bomb Blast

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- A blast targeting a former Pakistani interior minister on Friday killed at least 35 people and wounded dozens more, local police told CNN.


Four Palestinians Killed In Fighting With Israelis

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Four Palestinian fighters were killed Thursday in clashes with Israeli soldiers, Palestinian medical sources said.


Report: More Libyans Joining Militants In Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- More militants from Libya are turning up in Iraq, U.S. military researchers say.

U.S. Military Academy researchers studying documents note the continuing predominance of Saudis among foreign fighters.

But an "apparent surge" in Libyans could be tied to "the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group's (LIFG) increasingly cooperative relationship with al Qaeda," a West Point report says.


Iran: Top Cleric Says Women Without Veils Must Die

Tehran (AKI) - A top Muslim cleric in Iran, Hojatolislam Gholam Reza Hassani said on Wednesday that women in Iran who do not wear the hijab or Muslim headscarf, should die.


Australian Terror Supporter Faces Restrictions After His Release

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) -- Former Guantanamo prisoner David Hicks remains a terror threat, a magistrate said Friday as he ordered restrictions on his movements after he is released from an Australian prison next week.

Hicks, a former kangaroo skinner who was convicted of supporting al Qaeda at a U.S. military tribunal after being captured in 2001 in Afghanistan, will be subject to a midnight-to-dawn curfew and will have to report to police three times a week under the order.


Boca Group Crusades To 'Keep Christ In Christmas'

Billboards and car magnets are urging Palm Beach County drivers to "Keep Christ in Christmas," a renewed campaign spurred by an influx of what organizers call anti-Christian expressions in American society.


Bishop's Broadside For The PC Brigade's 'Winter Festivals'

A bishop has added his voice to the chorus of complaints that political correctness is destroying the meaning of Christmas.


See also:

Bishop's warning to 'militant atheists'

Vatican Blasts "Golden Compass" As Godless And Hopeless

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Wednesday condemned the film "The Golden Compass," which some have called anti-Christian, saying it promotes a cold and hopeless world without God.


William Winstanley: The Man Who Saved Christmas

In 1644, two years into the fighting, the Puritan faction in Parliament made its fundamentalist religious presence felt by drawing up the first of several laws banning Christmas.


Three Wise Men Just Legend: Archbishop

The leader of the world's Anglicans has described the Christmas story of the three wise men as nothing but a "legend" and says not all followers must believe in the virgin birth of Jesus.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has picked apart elements of the Christmas story, including how a star rose high in the sky and stood still to guide the wise men to Jesus's birth place.

Stars simply don't behave like that, he told the BBC during an interview.


Whale 'Missing Link' Discovered

The whale is descended from a deer-like animal that lived 48 million years ago, according to fossil evidence.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Humanists Comment On Islam And The "Girl from Qatif"

Washington, D.C. -- The Saudi king yesterday pardoned the "girl from Qatif," a woman whose case stunned and outraged the world. The woman was brutally raped, and her male companion assaulted, by several men who discovered them alone in a car. She was then sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for the "offense" of being alone with a man who was not her husband or relative. Her harsh sentence spurred a debate within Saudi Arabia and throughout the world about the treatment of women and the terrors of fundamentalist Islam.

"The pardon of the 'girl from Qatif' is very welcome news," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "For those who value religious moderation, it's also a beacon of hope. Hope, not just for we Americans who wish to release millions from the stranglehold of religious zealotry in the Middle East, but also hope for those oppressed by those regimes and dismayed to see such horrors perpetrated in the name of Islam."

As the world learns of the King Abdullah's pardon, the American Humanist Association issues "A Sensible Approach to Islam," setting forth a humanist viewpoint. It is also published in the January/February 2008 issue of the Humanist magazine, on newsstands now.

In the statement, the American Humanist Association draws attention to the faulty assumption that Islamist extremism represents Islam as a whole. Though it is true that this dangerous movement has ascended to political power in many countries, and that some Islamists have formed terrorist organizations, the statement contends that such extremists don't represent all Muslims. Moreover, "Generalizing Islam as entirely violent undermines the efforts of millions of Muslims and others who are struggling to challenge the rise of extremism." The statement goes on to say: "The American Humanist Association is opposed to both the activities of Islamic extremists and to the 'crusade' mentality rising in Western circles that condemns all Muslims indiscriminately."

Non-Muslims are called upon to resist prejudice and discrimination against Muslims in the United States and elsewhere. Islam and its various sects and divisions should be assessed objectively, the statement says, using the same standards that one would apply to all belief systems. For humanists this means showing support for all who advocate a democratic secular state with complete separation of religion and government.

Recently, in a New York Times opinion editorial, "Islam's Silent Moderates," Ayaan Hirsi Ali rightly lamented three tragic incidents in the Muslim world, one of which included the initial harsh sentence of the "girl from Qatif." The others include the sentencing of and violent protests against school teacher Gillian Gibbons in Sudan for naming a teddy bear "Muhammad," and the danger facing Taslima Nasrin, a women's rights activist, who has been on the run in India from Muslim militants who put a 500,000 rupees price on her head. Hirsi Ali criticizes moderate Muslims for not speaking out against these events.

But, in releasing "A Sensible Approach to Islam," American Humanist Association Vice President Carl Coon, former U.S. Ambassador to Nepal and one of the statement's authors, declares: "Ayaan Hirsi Ali doesn't give us the whole picture. Numerous moderate Muslims and Muslim organizations have come out against these developments and in support of the victims."

The "girl from Qatif" has been helped by human rights activists across the Middle East, and her story has been reported on sympathetically by several newspapers within Saudi Arabia, which undoubtedly influenced King Abdullah, who pardoned her. In addition, Gillian Gibbons has been supported by many Muslims, including the Sudanese president, and the Muslim Council of Britain, who criticized Gibbons' arrest. Similarly, there have been demonstrations and protest rallies in support of Taslima Nasrin in Kolkata, India, calling for her safe return. The Indian government continues to give her shelter elsewhere in the region. "These courageous acts on the part of moderate Muslims highlight the importance of distinguishing between extreme Islamists and moderate Muslims," Coon concluded. The humanist statement stresses that rather than attacking Islam as a whole, it is important for non-Muslims of goodwill to work with moderate Muslims and show support for peaceful and democratic interpretations of the world's second-largest religion.


Americans United Urges Government Officials To Remember Constitution When Erecting Holiday Displays

Public officials should avoid using the holiday season to promote one religion over others, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.


Religious Freedom In Military Questioned

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A foundation that has sued the military alleging widespread violations of religious freedom said Tuesday that it has evidence showing that soldiers are pressured to adopt fundamentalist Christian beliefs.


Borders Tags Atheist Book With 'O Come All Ye Faithless' Cards

A controversial Christmas card reading "O come all ye faithless" has been strongly criticized by Christians as an "ill judged and insensitive joke." Borders book stores began giving away the card free with every copy of Richard Dawkins' well known atheist work, The God Delusion, this Christmas.


See also:

The Four Horsemen (First of two 1-hour videos featuring Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens & Harris.)

In Support Of Intelligent Design

A majority of Pinellas County School Board members - including the immediate past president of the National School Boards Association - think that if Florida children are taught about evolution, they should learn other theories on the origin of life as well.


Some Say I-35 Is Bible's Road To Salvation

DALLAS, Texas (CNN) -- If you turn to the Bible -- Isaiah Chapter 35, Verse 8 -- you will see a passage that in part says, "A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness."


Preacher's Killer's Right To Visit Kids Upheld

CNN -- The Tennessee Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to modify or overturn a lower court's ruling allowing Mary Winkler, convicted of killing her minister husband, visitation rights with the couple's three daughters.


Muslims Mark High Point Of Hajj

MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Millions of Muslims marked the zenith of the annual Hajj Tuesday, praying for God's forgiveness on a rocky desert hill here where in Muslim tradition Adam and Eve were reunited after leaving Eden.


Man Pardoned Over Saudi Rape Case

(CNN) -- Saudi King Abdullah's letter pardoning a rape victim from 200 lashes and six months in prison for appearing in public with an unrelated male also included a pardon for the man she was with, according to the Saudi Justice Minister.


Torture House, Mass Graves Discovered In Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Coalition forces found 26 bodies buried in mass graves and a bloodstained "torture complex," with chains hanging from walls and ceilings and a bed connected to an electrical system, the military said Wednesday.


See also:

Media Invited To "Interview" Al Qaeda Boss

Israeli Strikes Kill Islamic Jihad Militants In Gaza

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Nearly a week after vowing a harsher response to rocket attacks, the Israeli military overnight Monday pummeled Gaza with airstrikes that killed at least 11 Islamic Jihad militants, according to Israeli military and militant sources.


Stumbling Into Chaos: Afghanistan On The Brink

The security situation in Afghanistan has reached crisis proportions. The Taliban's ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt; exclusive research undertaken by Senlis Afghanistan indicates that 54 per cent of Afghanistan's landmass hosts a permanent Taliban presence, primarily in southern Afghanistan, and is subject to frequent hostile activity by the insurgency.

The Taliban are the de facto governing authority in significant portions of territory in the south and east, and are starting to control parts of the local economy and key infrastructure such as roads and energy supply. The insurgency also exercises a significant amount of psychological control, gaining more and more political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people who have a long history of shifting alliances and regime change.


See also:

Taliban kills 15 in U.S. fuel ambush

White House Told To Detail Christian Leader Visits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge ordered the Secret Service on Monday to disclose records of visits by nine prominent conservative Christian leaders to the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's residence.


Governor's Defense Of Nativity Scenes Challenged

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Gov. Ted Strickland's decision to allow nativity displays in state parks has drawn the ire of a group that opposes mingling church and state, which has asked the state's chief watchdog to investigate whether his action was constitutional.

The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation accuses Strickland of violating his oath of office to uphold the Constitutions of Ohio and the United States by allowing the religious displays.


Rapping Monks, Nuns Hit Catwalk

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Japanese monks and nuns held a fashion show - with rap music and a catwalk - at a major Tokyo temple Saturday to promote Buddhism.


Why One Muslim Girl Became A Born-Again Virgin For Her Wedding Night

"My virginity was restored in a delicate operation just last week, and I honestly view it as life-saving surgery," says Aisha.

"If my husband cannot prove to his family that I am a virgin, I would be hounded, ostracised and sent home in disgrace. My father, who is a devout Muslim, would regard it as the ultimate shame.

"The entire family could be cast out from the friends and society they hold dear, and I honestly believe that one of my fanatically religious cousins or uncles might kill me in revenge, to purge them of my sins. Incredible as it may seem, honour killings are still accepted within our religion.

"Ever since my family arranged this marriage for me, I've been terrified that, on my wedding night, my secret would come out. It has only been since my surgery last week that I've actually been able to sleep properly. Now, I can look forward to my marriage."


Bomb Plot Suspect Escaped While Praying

Rashid Rauf, a key suspect in the alleged Heathrow bomb plot, escaped police custody in Pakistan after officers allowed him to pray at a mosque as he was being driven back to prison in his uncle's car.


Sudan Jails Two Egyptians For Blasphemy

KHARTOUM -- A Khartoum court has sentenced two Egyptians to six months in prison for marketing a book that is deemed offensive to Aisha, one of Prophet Mohammed's wives, local press reported on Monday.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Terror Accused: We Were Hunting Loch Ness Monster

AN ELECTRICIAN accused of being a Muslim holy warrior claimed he was hunting Nessie during an alleged jihad training course.


Anti-Al Qaeda Iraqis Shot To Death

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A judge and three members of a group opposing al Qaeda in Iraq were shot to death Monday in Iraq's Diyala province, a local security official said.


Straight Like Me

Love in Action is part of a booming phenomenon that is also known as the "sexual reorientation therapy" movement, an effort that is reflected in the hundreds of programs attached to religious organizations across the United States. Although the stated aim of the movement is to turn gays straight and bring them to God, it actually now has as much to do with battling the gay rights movement by trying to prove that sexuality is not an immutable characteristic like race or gender. Ex-gay ministries began as redoubts for men and women trying to reconcile their faith and sexuality. But in the hands of the anti-gay Christian Right, they have become full-fledged propaganda machines depicting gays as sex-addicted, mentally ill, and stunted heterosexuals.


See also:

'Purity Siege' exploits man featured on 700 Club as 'cured' of homosexuality

Abstinence Programs Face Rejection

The number of states refusing federal money for "abstinence-only" sex education programs jumped sharply in the past year as evidence mounted that the approach is ineffective.


Synthetic DNA On The Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

Details of the process are under wraps until the work is published, probably early next year. But Venter has already shown that he can insert a "natural" chromosome into a cell and bring it to life. If a synthetic chromosome works the same way, as expected, the first living cells with fully artificial genomes could be growing in dishes by the end of 2008.

The plan is to mass-produce a plain genetic platform able to direct the basic functions of life, then attach custom-designed DNA modules that can compel cells to make synthetic fuels or other products.


Red Alert: Mars Shines Bright In December

Mars will be closer to Earth this month than any time until the year 2016.


Muslims Gather For Hajj Pilgrimage

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Millions of Muslims from around the world gathered in Mecca Sunday for the start of the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage, as the Saudi Interior Ministry announced tough security precautions.


According to Wikipedia, "The Black Stone is a Muslim object of reverence, said by some to date back to the time of Adam and Eve. It is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba, the ancient stone building towards which Muslims pray, in the center of Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Stone is roughly 30 cm (12 in.) in diameter, and 1.5 meters above the ground.

"When pilgrims circle the Kaaba as part of the Tawaf ritual of the Hajj, many of them try, if possible, to stop and kiss the Black Stone, emulating the kiss that it received from Muhammad. If they cannot reach it, they are to point to it on each of their seven circuits around the Kaaba....

"Non-Islamic historians point to the history of baetylus, or meteorite worship, in pre-Islamic Arabia, and say it is likely that the Stone is a meteorite."

See also:

Biblical town of Bethlehem kicks off Christmas

Hotel chain offers a room at the inn for Marys and Josephs

Bomb Kills 7 In Northwest Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- A bomb explosion killed at least seven people and wounded several others in the northwestern Pakistani city of Kohat around noon in Monday, according to police sources.


See also from Saturday:

Pakistan Suicide Attack Kills 5

Australian Defense Chief Warns Allies Over Afghanistan War

(CNN) -- Australia's new defense minister warned U.S. and NATO allies over the weekend that they risk losing the war in Afghanistan without a sharp shift in military and reconstruction efforts there, according to his office.


The defense minister's comments were first reported in The Australian newspaper and confirmed by his office in Canberra. Fitzgibbon told his fellow defense ministers -- including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- that "We need much more than a military response" to a rise in attacks by the Taliban.


Tossed From A Car And Shot In Cold Blood

There have been 48 women killed in six months for "un-Islamic behaviour". The murders in the teeming southern port of Basra have highlighted the weakness of the security forces and the strength of Islamic militias as Britain prepares to hand over control to Iraqi officials today.


See also:

The 'Body Contractors'

Al Qaeda No. 2 Blasts 'Traitors'

(CNN) -- Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant warned in a video statement released Sunday that Iraqi tribal leaders who side with U.S. troops against al Qaeda fighters would face reprisals when Americans leave Iraq.


Report: King Pardons Rape Victim

(CNN) -- Saudi King Abdullah has pardoned a rape victim who had been sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison in a case that sparked international attention, a Saudi newspaper reported.


Man In Attack Says He Was Helping 'Lost Soul'

Knoxville, TN -- Larry Bohannon says God led him to an alleged prostitute's motel room.


Knox County Commissioners Prepare To Step Into God And Politics Debate Again

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Knox County commission meetings typically begin with a prayer.

A recent meeting began with this opening by Commissioner Tony Norman: "Keep me safe, oh God. I come to you for refuge. I said to the Lord, you are my master."

The prayer serves as a recognition of God, but some commissioners want to take it a step further by putting their faith in writing.

"There is going to be a day of reckoning and I don't want somebody to come to me and say, 'Remember back on county commission and you didn't recognize me, I don't recognize you?' So you are not coming into heaven," Commissioner R. Larry Smith said.

Commissioners Ivan Harmon and Greg Lambert are sponsoring a resolution that states:

"The Knox County Commission hereby urges all American citizens, to proclaim to every level of government (Local, State, and Federal) its responsibility to publicly recognize God as the Foundation of our National Heritage."


Prayers Will Go On In Delaware County, Commissioner Says

DELAWARE, Ohio -- The prayers offered by Delaware County Commissioner Glenn Evans at the board's meetings are short and to the point, usually invoking God's guidance.

"Some days are pretty challenging, and I honestly pray for the wisdom to make the right decision," Evans said.

Evans, a Christian, has opened each public session with a prayer since January, when he was appointed the board's president. His intent was to make people feel comfortable, he said.

This week, Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged the board to "consider eliminating all future prayers in order to make all feel equally welcome at meetings."

In a letter dated Dec. 10, the watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., said the vast majority of the prayers at the meetings are sectarian and cite references to Jesus Christ. Prayers at seven meetings last month concluded with, "in your son's name, we ask these things," the letter said.

The prayers do not represent those who hold non-Christian beliefs or who practice no religion, the group said.


Creation College Seeks State's OK To Train Teachers

Dallas school plans master's in science education, fueling debate over teaching evolution.


Hagee Revising Book's Contentious Chapter

Megachurch pastor, author and Christian Zionist leader John Hagee marketed his latest book as one that would "shake Christian theology" when it was released three months ago.

What he didn't expect with publication of "In Defense of Israel" was outrage from some members of his own evangelical community nationwide.

A key chapter, they say, borders on heresy because it argues that Jesus didn't present himself as the Messiah to the Jewish people, so they cannot be held responsible for rejecting him.


'Eye Ancestor' Debunks ID Nonsense

An Australian scientist has gone one step further in debunking intelligent design (ID) by discovering evidence of an evolutionary forerunner to the modern eye.


'Do Not Let The Devil Interfere'

Carolyn Jessop was born into a Christian sect in Arizona. At 18, she was told that God had chosen her husband - a man of 50 who already had three wives. She had eight children with him before, fearing for her own daughters' futures, she planned their escape.


Survey Finds Young And Old Moroccans Differ On Religion

A new survey of Moroccan society offers the first scientific look at religious values and practices in the country. While young Moroccans are less religious than their elders, they are also more inclined to embrace radicalism.


Creationists Plan British Theme Park

The latest salvo in creationism's increasingly ferocious battle with evolution is about to be fired in Lancashire. Not in a fiery sermon preached from the pulpit, but in the form of a giant Christian theme park that will champion the book of Genesis and make a multi-media case that God created the world in seven days.


Friday, December 14, 2007

The American Atheist Winter Solstice Bash

Saturday, December 22, 2007
The Crowne Plaza Hotel
36 Valley Road
Clark, New Jersey
Grand Ballroom (12:30 pm- 5:00 pm)

The Venue:

The Winter Solstice Gala venue is the luxurious Crowne Plaza Hotel (Grand Ballroom, 2nd floor), Clark NJ just off exit 135 of the Garden State Parkway, and two miles from the Rahway Train Station for convenient access to New York City. There is also the Metro Park Station for New Jersey Transit and AMTRAK. You may make shuttle arrangements with the Crowne Plaza. The hotel is located at 36 Valley Road, Clark, NJ 07066, phone 732-574-0100.

MapQuest Map of Crowne Plaza Clark, NJ.

Get together with other Atheists for an afternoon of holiday fun, food, music, dancing and camaraderie in a celebration of the Winter Solstice!

Evening Events:

At 6 pm all are invited to tour the American Atheist Center in nearby Cranford and then participate in the taping of The Atheist Viewpoint Cable TV program in the American Atheist Center TV studio.

Cost: $29.00 per person, $14 for children ages 3 through 10.

Register on line or mail your payment to:

American Atheists,
PO Box 5733,
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733


Militia Leader Al-Sadr Studying Up

(CBS/AP) The leader of Iraq's biggest Shiite militia has quietly resumed seminary studies toward attaining the title of ayatollah - a goal that could make firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army an even more formidable power broker in Iraq.


Taliban Behead Grandmother And Grandson, 7, For 'Spying For The Americans'

Afghanistan -- Taliban militants have beheaded an old woman and her grandson accused of spying for the US military, officials said.


Militant Leader Killed In Eastern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The number two in command of the Taliban's Haqqani network was killed by Afghan and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, the U.S.-led coalition said in a news release on Thursday.


Anger After Govt. Vet Kills Cow At Hindu Temple

Police, RSPCA inspectors and a government vet arrived at the temple's farm early Thursday morning and administered a lethal injection to Gangotri, a 13-year old Belgian Blue-Jersey cross, while Hindu worshippers were at prayer.

Gangotri has been injured for more than a year and suffered from bed sores because she could no longer stand. Government ministers have strongly defended the decision to kill the cow and end her suffering.

However, monks at Bhaktivedanta Manor in Hertfordshire are devastated over the cow's death and have accused the government of underhand tactics in the animal's slaughter.


State To Open Pilot Non-Religious Schools

Ireland -- The State's first two interdenominational national schools will be set up on a pilot basis in Dublin next year, Minister for Education Mary Hanafin said today.


Boy Scouts' Banishment Threatens Catholic Church

Pro-homosexual Philadelphia officials' campaign to evict the Boy Scouts of America from their long-held regional headquarters on city-owned ground will create a precedent that could endanger dozens of other groups in the city, including the Catholic Church, as well as museums and a public radio station.

The issue: The City Council has decided the Boy Scouts, because they prohibit participation by open homosexuals, do not comply with the city's anti-discrimination policies and can no longer rent their headquarters for $1 a year, as they have since the city approved its original resolution on the plan 80 years ago.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy Newton Day!

December 25th is a date to celebrate not because it is the disputed birthday of the "son of God" but because it is the actual birthday of one of the world's greatest men.


Militants Back On Offense In Somalia

(CBS/AP) Radical Islamists with alleged links to al Qaeda have regrouped after being driven from power last year and are poised to launch a massive attack against the Somali government, an official said Thursday.


U.S. Seeks Help In Afghanistan

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday pushed European allies for more troops to re-energize efforts in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgency has increased its attacks in the 18 months since NATO took command of the war.


Twin Blasts Kill Seven In Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Two explosions struck the southwestern Pakistan city of Quetta on Thursday, killing seven people -- three Pakistani security forces and four civilians -- government officials have said.


New Rocket Attack In Israeli Town

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza on Thursday struck near a synagogue in the Israeli town of Sderot, injuring a woman and damaging a home, an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman said.


Troops Discover Mass Grave In Iraq

Story Highlights:

Mass grave found north of Baghdad, includes mutilated remains of at least 16 men

One Iraqi killed and five people wounded by a car bomb in northern Baghdad

Eleven people detained in countrywide coalition raids targeting al Qaeda in Iraq


Living, Dead Extracted In Algeria

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) -- Rescuers in a shaken city on Wednesday extracted the living and the dead from the crumpled remains of U.N. offices in Algiers that were bombed by an al-Qaeda affiliate. Victims included U.N. staff from around the world, police officers and law students.


Judge Orders Priest To Recite Psalms

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- A judge in southern Chile has sentenced a Catholic priest to recite psalms daily during three months as punishment for a traffic violation.


"I did it as a tribute to Galileo Galilei, one of the greatest scientists of all time, who received a similar sentence from the Catholic Church during three years for saying the Earth rotates around the sun."


1 Acquitted, 6 To Be Retried, In Alleged Terror Plot

Story Highlights:

"Liberty City 7" were accused of homegrown plot to blow up buildings

One acquitted; six to be retried starting January 7

Sources say supposed al Qaeda operative helping group was really informant


Young Pakistanis: Bin Laden Is A CIA Creation

Good Morning America gets more than it bargained for in a feature on young people in Pakistan.


Thieves Cut Off Man's 'Holy Leg'

Police in southern India are hunting for two men who attacked a Hindu holy man, cut off his right leg and then made off with it.


Watchdog Group Challenges US Military Over Religious Freedom

The U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom and prevents government support of religion. The provisions apply to those in the military, as well as civilians. Mike O'Sullivan reports, an organization led by a former military lawyer has challenged the Pentagon over religious issues.


U.S. Student Scores Grim

A month after Texas ran off its director of science education for failing to stay "neutral" on evolution, an international assessment reveals that U.S. students trail their peers around the world in science literacy.


Nativity Rejected In Manistique

The Manistique City Council Monday narrowly rejected a request to place a nativity scene at the city's Triangle Park.

The request was made by Rev. Steve Jones of the Manistique Pentecostal Church of God and Rev. Don Bedwell of the First United Methodist Church. Bedwell is president of the Manistique Ministerial Association.

The issue before the council, as described in a legal opinion written by City Attorney John Filoramo, was whether or not a private person may display a nativity scene on city property.

"The issue raises questions," Filoramo wrote in his opinion, because the federal Constitution "prohibits the government, including cities, from establishing a state religion."


Nativity Scene Draws Complaint

A nativity scene will remain on the lawn of the Sauk County Courthouse in Baraboo, despite the objection of one citizen who feels the religious display violates the First Amendment.


Group Objects To Nativity Scene In Peshtigo Park

PESHTIGO, Wis. (AP) - A co-president of the national Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison is objecting to a nativity scene in a Peshtigo city park.


Green Bay Leader Pays For City Nativity

GREEN BAY -- The president of the Green Bay City Council paid for a nativity scene to be put up at City Hall after learning of an atheist group's protest of one in Peshtigo.


Muslim Helps Jews Attacked On New York Subway

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A Muslim man jumped to the aid of three Jewish subway riders after they were attacked by a group of young people who objected to one of the Jews saying "Happy Hanukkah," a spokeswoman for the three said Wednesday.

Friday's altercation on the Q train began when somebody yelled out "Merry Christmas," to which rider Walter Adler responded, "Happy Hanukkah," said Toba Hellerstein.

"Almost immediately, you see the look in this guy's face like I've called his mother something," Adler told CNN affiliate WABC.

Two women who were with a group of 10 rowdy people then began to verbally assault Adler's companions with anti-Semitic language, Hellerstein said.

One member of the group allegedly yelled, "Oh, Hanukkah. That's the day that the Jews killed Jesus," she said.


Wilson Schools Won't Settle

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee filed the lawsuit in September 2006 on behalf of an anonymous Lakeview Elementary student and his parents. Legal documents in the case show the school's Web site advertised a Christian group called Praying Parents, a practice the school has since discontinued.

The suit also alleges that the Praying Parents were allowed to leave prayer messages with students. It asks the court to stop the activities and prevent the school from supporting them in the future.


State Rebukes Evolution Foe

The debate over evolution, creation and Florida's science standards has grown increasingly heated as a decision nears, and a state Department of Education manager who has waded into it now finds herself in hot water.

Selena "Charlie" Carraway, program manager for the department's Office of Instructional Materials, recently used her personal e-mail on personal time to send a missive urging fellow Christians to fight the proposal to include evolution as a "key idea" in the science curriculum.


The Trials And Tribulations Of Hashmel Turner

An unassuming small-town preacher and his unconventional Christian lawyer are trying to win the right to pray to Jesus at city council meetings.


Freedom Lost

Even under Saddam, women in Iraq - including in semi-autonomous Kurdistan - were widely recognised as among the most liberated in the Middle East. They held important positions in business, education and the public sector, and their rights were protected by a statutory family law that was the envy of women's activists in neighbouring countries. But since the 2003 invasion, advances that took 50 years to establish are crumbling away. In much of the country, women can only now move around with a male escort. Rape is committed habitually by all the main armed groups, including those linked to the government. Women are being murdered throughout Iraq in unprecedented numbers.

In October the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (Unami) expressed serious concern over the rising incidence of so-called honour crimes in Iraqi Kurdistan, confirming that 255 women had been killed in just the first six months of 2007, three-quarters of them by burning. An earlier Unami report cited 366 burns cases in Dohuk in 2006, up from 289 the year before, although most were not fatal. In Irbil, the emergency management centre had reported 576 burns cases since 2003, resulting in 358 deaths.


See also:

Iraq's Youthful Militiamen Build Power Through Fear
Schoolgirls Told to Wear Scarves, Under Threat of Death

Inter Milan Football Strip 'Offends Muslims'

A football strip worn by Italian team Inter Milan is at the centre of a legal row after a lawyer claimed it offended "Muslim sensibilities".

Players wore the new strip - a white shirt with large red cross on it - in a Champions League match last month against Turkish team Fenerbahce to celebrate the club's centenary.

But a Turkish lawyer, Baris Kaska, took exception to the "Crusader-style" cross which he said symbolised "Western racist superiority over Islam".


Men Arrested For Contempt Of Religion

Egyptian authorities have arrested 22 men including three Lebanese and a Kazakh national on charges of membership in an illegal organisation and contempt for religion, a judicial source said.

The source said the men belong to the al-Ahbash sect, considered heterodox by many Islamic clerics, and said they possessed literature outlining their beliefs.

Among the group's unorthodox beliefs cited by the judicial source are permitting Muslims to pray without ablutions, contrary to established Muslim practice, and seeking blessings from graves.

The source said the men had been attempting to spread their beliefs on the campuses of al-Azhar University, Egypt's prestigious centre of Sunni Islamic learning, and had managed to recruit a number of followers.