Monday, March 31, 2008

Municipalities Must Reap What They Sow, Say Humanists

The American Humanist Association applauded the U.S. Supreme Court today for agreeing to hear Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 07-665. This is a free speech and equal access case in which Summum, a religious group, seeks to display its aphorisms in the same public park where a Ten Commandments monument appears.

"Fair is fair," declared Mel Lipman, a constitutional law attorney and president of the American Humanist Association. "If Pleasant Grove City, Utah, keeps its Ten Commandments monument on the pretext of Supreme Court rulings that allow such religious expressions on public property when included with others, then Pleasant Grove City will have to allow others. On the other hand, if the city is willing to give up its Ten Commandments monument, then it can reject the Summum monument."

In court cases allowing Ten Commandments monuments and creche displays on public property, the critical factor has always been that the monument or display must be sufficiently mixed with other elements. But attorneys for Pleasant Grove City argue, "Government bodies are now sitting targets for demands that they grant 'equal access' to whatever comparable monuments a given group wishes to have installed, be it Summum's Seven Aphorisms, an atheist group's Monument to Freethought or Rev. Fred Phelps's denunciations of homosexual persons."

"This is correct," stated American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. "When the religious right fought hard for placing the Ten Commandments and creche displays on public property, they forgot to be careful what they wished for. In our brief to the Supreme Court, the American Humanist Association warned against allowing religious displays on public property."

In 2004, in a Van Orden v. Perry amicus brief filed by the American Humanist Association on behalf of itself and over a dozen religious and secular organizations, it was pointed out that "Posting the Ten Commandments on public grounds constitutes government endorsement of certain religious sects to the exclusion of religious minorities and nontheists." This warned of the impossibility of accommodating every religious expression in every public forum, arguing against the very idea of government-sponsored religious displays.

"Now they must reap what they have sown," concluded Lipman. "Either they get their monuments at the price of letting all others in, or they give them up--they can't have it both ways."

In anticipation of a Supreme Court victory for Summum, the American Humanist Association is now pursuing the idea of placing stone monuments of Ted Turner's "Ten Voluntary Initiatives" in every public park that has a legal Ten Commandments monument. Turner received the Humanist of the Year Award from the American Humanist Association in 1990 and the organization has widely publicized the humanist principles stated in what has been nicknamed "The Ted Commandments."

See for more information.


See also:

Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Controversy Over Religious Symbols On Public Property

Archaeologists Start Stonehenge Dig

London -- Some of England's most sacred soil was disturbed Monday for the first time in more than four decades as archaeologists worked to solve the enduring riddle of Stonehenge: When and why was the prehistoric monument built?


See also:

How Were The Egyptian Pyramids Built?

Billboard: All Religions Are Fairy Tales

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -- It looked harmless enough, but the words on a billboard unnerved so many people that a popular restaurant nearby actually lost business. The billboard was on Colonial Drive near Old Cheney Highway.


Gay Couple Loses Benefits With Move

The couple was stunned when Ryan was dropped from the company insurance plan the two shared in New Jersey, where they were able to register as domestic partners. Idaho does not formally recognize same-sex couples.


Cartoon To Be Edited Out Of Anti-Quran Film

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A Dutch lawmaker whose anti-Quran film drew worldwide condemnations will edit out a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad after complaints of copyright infringement, his office said Monday.


See also:

Anti-Koran film goes live on Web

Wilders Sparks Political Protest

Children In Voodoo's Power

In the tiny West African country of Benin, voodoo has been practised for 10,000 years, but efforts to preserve its ancient oral traditions are exacting a harsh toll on its faithful, splitting families and pushing people deeper into poverty.


Sources: Iran Helped Prod Al-Sadr Cease-Fire

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iran was integral in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to halt attacks by his militia on Iraqi security forces, an Iraqi lawmaker said Monday.


See also:

Calm in Iraqi Cities After Cleric Calls for Truce

Iranian General Played Key Role in Brokering Iraq Cease-Fire

On a Baghdad Street, Palpable Despair

Sadr Makes Truce Offer

Shiite Militias Cling to Swaths of Basra and Stage Raids

Stalled Assault on Basra Exposes the Iraqi Government's Shaky Authority

Iraq Violence Calms But Green Zone Hit

3 NATO Troops Killed In Afghan Blast

(CNN) -- Two British marines and a Danish soldier have been killed in Afghanistan.


Turkey's Rulers Face Trial Over Islamic Policies

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's top court will hear a case for a ban on the Islamic-rooted ruling party, a decision that could lead to months of political uncertainty in a nation divided over the role of religion in society.


See also:

Call It a Coup

UN Urged To Act Against Blasphemy

Prominent religious leaders and scholars have urged the United Nations to take practical steps to stop blasphemous publications and called on Muslim countries to sever diplomatic and trade ties with Denmark and Holland.


See also:

Vote on freedom of expression marks the end of Universal Human Rights

Convicted Islamist Terrorists Exploiting Growing Prison Gang Culture

Convicted Islamist terrorists are exploiting the growing gang culture in top security jails, fuelling fears that they are trying to radicalise other inmates and foment unrest.


Number Of Muslims Ahead Of Catholics, Says Vatican

The number of Muslims has overtaken that of Roman Catholics for the first time, the Vatican said yesterday.

Muslims account for 19.2% of the world's population, while Catholics make up 17.4%, according to the Vatican's new statistics yearbook, which is based on figures for 2006.


The Vatican data showed that Christians as a whole, including Orthodox and Protestant groups as well as Catholics, made up 33% of the world's population.

Applying the percentages to the 2006 world population of about 6.5 billion, Muslims would have made up 1.25 billion of the total, Catholics 1.13 billion and all Christians 2.15 billion.


Egypt: Ex-Muslims Blocked From Declaring Conversion

Christian-born converts to Islam in Egypt wishing to return to their former faith have found their way blocked by an appeal before the country's Supreme Constitutional Court.


See also:

My quest to get de-baptised

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Missing NY Rev. Found At Ohio Strip Club

(AP) Police say a pastor who was reported missing from his home in western New York has been found at an Ohio strip club.


Faith-Healing Parents Charged In Baby's Death

A Clackamas County, Ore., couple are facing second degree manslaughter and criminal mistreatment charges after their 15-month-old daughter died from what the state medical examiner said were easily cured illnesses.


See also:

From the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
Memorialize 11-Year-Old Madeline by Removing Faith Exemption

Basra Fighting Death Toll Nears 300

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A strict curfew was extended indefinitely in the Iraqi capital Sunday as the death toll mounted from clashes between government troops and Shiite Muslim militants.


See also:

Baghdad on lockdown as rockets, bombs fly

Al-Sadr To Followers: Refuse Surrender

The Battle in Basra Escalates

Baghdad security plan spokesman kidnapped

Hindu Monks Sue RSPCA Over Slaughter Of Sacred Cow Gangotri

Hindu monks are to sue the RSPCA in protest over the killing of a sacred cow. A group of monks from Bhaktivedanta Manor Hindu temple, in Hertfordshire, yesterday served legal papers on the animal welfare charity for trespassing when they put down the temple's sacred cow Gangotri on 13 December last year.


Dutch Await Reaction After MP Releases Film On Qur'an

Dutch MP Geert Wilders released a film critical of Islam yesterday, setting verses of the Qur'an against images of terror attacks. The 15-minute film, entitled Fitna - strife or division - was posted on the internet, and shortly afterwards segments were rebroadcast by TV channels.


See also:

Anti-Islamic film fails to spark violent protests

Film critical of Islam dropped from Web site

Muslims unhappy at German 'Satanic Verses' staging

UN OKs Islamic Text Against Defamation

GENEVA -- The top U.N. rights body on Thursday passed a resolution proposed by Islamic countries saying it is deeply concerned about the defamation of religions and urging governments to prohibit it.


Religious Battles In Turkey

Turkish Christians are close to losing an unconventional but important ally. The Constitutional Court in Ankara is threatening to close the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the name of secularism.


See also:

Politics feels the heat from mounting pressure to compromise

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Doomsday Fears Spark Lawsuit

The builders of the world's biggest particle collider are being sued in federal court over fears that the experiment might create globe-gobbling black holes or never-before-seen strains of matter that would destroy the planet.


Parents' Faith Fails To Save Diabetic Girl

Wisconsin authorities will consider filing charges in the case of an 11-year-old girl who died on Easter Sunday of complications from diabetes that went untreated because police say her parents' obscure religious beliefs do not allow medical intervention.


See also:

Girl's death probed after parents rely on prayer


Child's death may put faith law to test

International Zone Under Curfew As Attacks Continue

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's government imposed a weekend curfew in Baghdad on Thursday amid clashes between government troops and Shiite militia fighters, and U.S. Embassy staff were told to remain indoors after days of rocket attacks left two U.S. government employees dead.


See also:

Heavy Fighting Rocks Iraq's Basra City

Thousands in Baghdad Protest Basra Assault

Militias Resist Iraqi Forces in Fight for Basra

Iraq implodes as Shia fights Shia

Iraqi PM Promises A Fight "Until The End"

Shiite Militia Won't Back Down in Government Crackdown

Penalty For Pharmacist's Refusal Upheld

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) -- A state appeals court upheld sanctions Tuesday against a pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control pills to a woman and wouldn't transfer her prescription elsewhere.


Unease Rises Over Anti-Islam Film

ROTTERDAM (IPS) -- In announcing the release of his anti-Quran film, Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament, has generated a swell of media attention in the Netherlands in the past months. Politicians have urged him not to go ahead with the release of the film 'Fitna' because they say its controversial content may lead to national and international unrest.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

FreeThoughtAction Hero Of The Day - 3/26/08

Richard DawkinsClinton Richard Dawkins (born March 26, 1941)

According to Wikipedia, Dawkins "is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

"Dawkins first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularised the gene-centered view of evolution and introduced the term meme into the lexicon, helping found memetics. In 1982, he made a widely cited contribution to the science of evolution with the theory, presented in his book The Extended Phenotype, that phenotypic effects are not limited to an organism's body but can stretch far into the environment, including into the bodies of other organisms. He has since written several best-selling popular books, and appeared in a number of television and radio programmes, concerning evolutionary biology, creationism, and religion.

"Dawkins is an outspoken atheist, humanist, and sceptic, and is a prominent member of the Brights movement. In a play on Thomas Huxley's epithet 'Darwin's bulldog,' Dawkins' impassioned defence of evolution has earned him the appellation 'Darwin's rottweiler.'"

Happy Birthday, Richard Dawkins!

Police: Girl Dies After Parents Pray For Healing Instead Of Seeking Medical Help

WESTON, Wis. -- An 11-year-old girl died after her parents prayed for healing rather than seek medical help for a treatable form of diabetes, police said Tuesday.


Child's Death May Put Faith Law To Test

The case of a 15-month-old Oregon City girl who died for lack of medical treatment could become the first test of a state law that disallows faith healing at the expense of a child's life.


Denmark Charges 3 In Terrorism Case

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- Prosecutors filed terrorism charges Tuesday against two alleged Islamic militants accused of preparing explosives for use in an attack in Denmark or abroad.


Alleged Passover Massacre Plotter Arrested

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli forces have arrested a wanted Hamas leader accused of planning one of the worst suicide attacks on Israel, the Israeli military announced Wednesday.


Deadline For Iraqi Militias As Clashes Intensify

BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister on Wednesday gave gunmen in the southern oil port of Basra three days to surrender their weapons and renounce violence as clashes between security forces and Shiite militia fighters erupted for a second day.

Suspected Shiite extremists also unleashed rockets or mortars against the U.S.-protected Green Zone in central Baghdad for the third day this week.


See also:

Iraqi PM Gives Shiite Militias Ultimatum

Pastor Admits Stealing IDs From Flock

(AP) The former pastor of a Northumberland County church acknowledges using parishioners' personal information to obtain credit cards.


Oldest Known Human Fossil Found

MADRID, Spain - A small piece of jawbone unearthed in a cave in Spain is the oldest known fossil of a human ancestor in Europe and suggests that people lived on the continent much earlier than previously believed, scientists say.


See also:

Bones show humans in Europe 1.2 mln years ago: study

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2008 Atheist Alliance International Convention

"Unsinkable Atheism," the 14th Annual Atheist Alliance International (AAI) Convention, will be held the weekend of September 25--28, 2008 on the beautiful and historic Queen Mary, which is permanently docked in Long Beach, California.


Celebrities, Religious Liberty Heroes Headline National Simulcast For Church-State Separation

Actors, musicians and comedians will join church-state activists from across the country March 26 to put church-state separation on the national agenda during the 2008 election season.


In Search Of The God Particle

The biggest experiment in particle physics, the Large Hadron Collider, starts this summer in Switzerland. The goal is to find signs of an elusive particle called the Higgs boson-also known as the "God particle" because it might ultimately lead to a grand theory of the universe. What impact will the experiments have on our ideas of the cosmos and our place in it?


Harbingers Of Disaster Gather

BEIRUT -- Dark clouds loom on Lebanon's horizon. In the streets, young men gather weapons. Off the Mediterranean shore, U.S. warships have approached for the first time since the 1980s. The Shiite militia Hezbollah boasts that it has rearmed in preparation for the next round of conflict with Israel. Throw in a series of bombings and assassinations and a paralyzed government, and the words "tipping point" come to mind.


Political tensions in the early 1970s between Christians and Muslims mushroomed into a 15-year civil war. An Israeli invasion in 1982 devolved into an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon. A 2006 Hezbollah operation to take a couple of Israeli hostages to trade for other prisoners turned into a monthlong war and an international crisis that drew in the U.S., France, the United Nations and the Arab League.


Peaceful Iraq Protests Spark Clashes; 50 Reported Dead

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Fighting between Iraqi security forces and supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr left 50 dead in the southern city of Basra and spread to several Baghdad districts Tuesday, Iraqi officials said.


See also:

Sadr militia battle troops in four Iraqi cities

Iraqi Troops, Militias Clash in Basra

U.S. awaits IDs on three bodies in Iraq

Czech Right-Wingers Help For Anti-Koran Film

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- A Czech far-right party has offered to help a Dutch lawmaker distribute an anti-Koran film on the Internet if it is banned from being released in the Netherlands.


Muslims 'To Outnumber Traditional Churchgoers'

The increasing influence of Islam on British culture is disclosed in research today that shows the number of Muslims worshipping at mosques in England and Wales will outstrip the numbers of Roman Catholics going to church in little more than a decade.


Evolution Of New Species Slows Down As Number Of Competitors Increases

ScienceDaily -- The rate at which new species are formed in a group of closely related animals decreases as the total number of different species in that group goes up, according to new research.

The research team believes these findings suggest that new species appear less and less as the number of species in a region approaches the maximum number that it can support.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Brains Are Hardwired To Act According To The Golden Rule

ScienceDaily -- Wesley Autrey, a black construction worker, a Navy veteran and 55-year-old father of two, didn't know the young man standing beside him. But when he had a seizure on the subway platform and toppled onto the tracks, Autrey jumped down after him and shielded him with his body as a train bore down on them. Autrey could have died, so why did he put his life on the line - literally - to save this complete stranger?

Donald Pfaff, the author of the new book The Neuroscience of Fair Play: Why We (Usually) Follow the Golden Rule, thinks he has the answer. Our brains, he says, are hardwired to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Individual acts of aggression and evil occur when this circuitry jams.


See also:

We Help Friends Due To Empathy; Relatives Due To Expectation Of Reciprocity

Consideration For Others Stimulates Positive Behavior

Money Buys Happiness When You Spend On Others, Study Shows

Humanists Ask Iowa To "Stand Firm"

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC), legal arm of the American Humanist Association, sent a letter today to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services urging Iowa to stand firm in the face of a legal challenge brought by the Association of Faith-Based Organizations (AFBO). AFBO sued the Iowa department to challenge a state regulation that excludes organizations engaged in sectarian activities from participating in Iowa's One Gift Campaign, in which the government provides resources to aid in transferring voluntary employee contributions to a recipient.

"The government should not lend its resources to help transfer money to groups that may use the funds to proselytize or discriminate on the basis of religion, even if those funds come from an voluntary source," commented Bob Ritter, legal coordinator of AHLC. "The American Humanist Association strongly supports the Iowa regulation which upholds the American principle of separation of church and state."


Comprehensive Sex Ed May Cut Teen Birth Rate

NEW YORK - Comprehensive sex education that includes discussion of birth control may help reduce teen pregnancies, while abstinence-only programs seem to fall short, the results of a U.S. survey suggest.

Using data from a 2002 national survey, researchers found that among more than 1,700 unmarried, heterosexual teens between 15 and 19 years old, those who'd received comprehensive sex ed in school were 60 percent less likely to have been pregnant or gotten someone pregnant than teens who'd had no formal sex education.

Meanwhile, there was no clear benefit from abstinence-only education in preventing pregnancy or delaying sexual intercourse, the researchers report in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


FBI: Bodies Of Kidnapped U.S. Contractors Found

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The remains of two U.S. contractors who were kidnapped in Iraq have been found, FBI officials said Monday.


At Least 5 Killed In Raid By Somalia's Islamic Militants

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Witnesses say insurgents have briefly overrun a police station after three hours of fighting killed at least five people, just one day after the Somali prime minister began new peace efforts.


Man Slain Over Purported Witchcraft Use

CANCUN, Mexico (AP) -- Three suspects brutally killed a man whom they accused of using witchcraft to put an "evil-eye" spell on one of their relatives, officials on Mexico's Caribbean coast said Monday.


Sunday, March 23, 2008


According to Wikipedia, "Easter is the most important religious feast in the Christian liturgical year. It is believed by the Christians to be the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe occurred on the third day after his crucifixion around AD 33."

In fact, it might be said that Christianity stands or falls based on whether or not the resurrection of Jesus actually occurred.

The "evidence" is sketchy.

The primary "evidence" comes from so-called "New Testament" biblical texts. We do not have the original copies of these texts. The earliest sufficiently complete copies we have come hundreds of years after the supposed events. They are fragmentary and are copies of earlier copies, which are themselves copies of earlier copies, and so on, to an unknown degree removed from the originals. Comparisons of the various copies that we do have show variations between them and indicate that copying errors occurred.

The sudden appearance of new sections of text in later copies (text that doesn't appear in any earlier copies) indicate that some things were added later and were most likely not contained in the original versions. This opens up the possibility that additions were made before the earliest copies available to us as well.

Even the originals, from which the flawed copies are derived, were written decades after the supposed events took place. None of them were likely written by actual eye-witnesses, so they are second-hand accounts at best. They are likely even further removed from the supposed events than that, either based on prior writings that are lost to us and/or oral traditions that were passed down over time. [The reliability of stories passed down orally is suspect to anyone who has ever played the game "Telephone."] Additionally, the original authorship of the various texts is either entirely unknown or speculative.

The various texts that we are left with are in conflict with one another in many of their details regarding the events that supposedly took place. They also sometimes apparently conflict with what we know about the history, culture, or traditions of that time, place, and people.

They include accounts that are suspiciously similar to other earlier stories that were told about other god-men that we now consider mythological, and these accounts claim various extraordinary and supernatural events taking place that most of us would consider wild, outrageous, and even unbelievable were they to be told about something happening in today's world with no more evidence than what we have here.

Even if we assume that Jesus existed and that the whole story wasn't an invention, distortion, or in any way embellished, that the written translations were more or less uncorrupted and somewhat accurate translations from the original texts, and that the original texts were based on accurate reports of more or less uncorrupted and somewhat accurate oral accounts given in good faith by actual eye-witnesses (which is quite a lot to assume), there is still the possibility that the witnesses were mistaken or deceived.

So we have flawed translations of conflicting reports by anonymous authors who were relaying second-hand hearsay-accounts of wild, extraordinary, and supernatural events given by unsophisticated witnesses, who were possibly duped, mistaken, or lying (if the authors themselves weren't fabricating or embellishing), and that are suspiciously similar to earlier stories circulating at the time which we now consider unbelievable mythology.

This kind of "evidence" would be laughed out of any court of law today.

It is certainly not much to base your life on.

Occum's Razor and common sense suggest that there are any number of other more rational/natural explanations for these accounts of supposed events than the one Christians believe.

I think it unlikely that most Christians would even believe it, if they were presented with this evidence for the first time as adults and not brought up to believe it as children when they were most impressionable.

In some ways it seems strangely appropriate to celebrate this day with painted hard-boiled eggs, chocolate, and bunny rabbits. I mean, if we are going the irrational route, why not? At least it is a more pleasant combination than celery, grasshoppers, and motor oil.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster Appears On The Courthouse Lawn In Crossville Tennessee

"If you allow one belief, then you must equally allow all others who request. The door was opened last year when the County allowed Jesus sculptures to be placed on the Courthouse steps and the Courthouse lawn. Now Cumberland County must welcome all requests equally. I expect our Courthouse lawn to become an open forum for personal expression. Our county property now looks Cheesier than ever. Got any Parmesan?"


Prominent Muslim Becomes Catholic On Easter

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Italy's most prominent Muslim commentator converted to Roman Catholicism on Saturday during the Vatican's Easter vigil service presided over by the pope.


Dozens Dead In Wave Of Iraq Violence

(AP) Rockets and mortars pounded Baghdad's U.S.-protected Green Zone Sunday and a suicide car bomber struck an Iraqi army post in the northern city of Mosul in a surge of attacks that killed at least 57 people nationwide.


See also:

U.S. death toll in Iraq hits 4,000

Easter Marked By Prayers, Marred By Blood

Iraqi Forces Battle Rogue Shiite Militants

Mukasey 'surprised' by scope of terrorist threats

Al Qaeda's No. 2 Reportedly Orders Defense Of Palestinians

(CNN) -- A new statement attributed to al Qaeda's No. 2 figure, Ayman al-Zawahiri, calls on Muslims to attack Western interests in defense of the Palestinians in Gaza.


Dutch Anti-Koran Film's Web Site Shut Down

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- The Web site where Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders was promoting his not-yet-released anti-Koran film has been suspended by its U.S. hosting service.


Christianity And Islam Race For Prominence At Olympic Park

The Olympics is meant to promote solidarity -- but the 2012 Games has become a question of faith for some in East London as Christianity and Islam vie to become the most visible religion around the 500-acre park.


Sydney Archbishop Warns Against Occult Forces

In his Easter message this weekend, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Dr Peter Jensen has warned of the occult.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Star Explodes Halfway Across Universe

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The explosion of a star halfway across the universe was so huge it set a record for the most distant object that could be seen on Earth by the naked eye.


The 7.5 billion light years away far eclipses the previous naked eye record of 2.5 million light years. One light year is 5.9 trillion miles.


The 21st Century Pagans Of Dorset

Druids, witches and shamans make their way to Stonehenge for equinox.


Pilgrims Crowd Holy Land For Good Friday

(AP) Thousands of Christians from all over the world crowded the stone alleyways of Jerusalem's Old City to mark Good Friday, retracing the route Jesus took to his crucifixion.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Causes Earth's Seasons?

Nicolai Copernicus (1473-1543) radically changed our understanding of astronomy when he proposed that the sun, not Earth, was the center of the solar system. This led to our modern understanding of the relationship between the sun and Earth.

We now know that Earth orbits the sun elliptically and, at the same time, spins on an axis that is tilted relative to its plane of orbit. This means that different hemispheres are exposed to different amounts of sunlight throughout the year. Because the sun is our source of light, energy and heat, the changing intensity and concentration of its rays give rise to the seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall.


63-Year-Old Solves Riddle From 1970

JERUSALEM - A mathematical puzzle that baffled the top minds in the esoteric field of symbolic dynamics for nearly four decades has been cracked -- by a 63-year-old immigrant who once had to work as a security guard.


Margolis said the solution could have many applications.

"Say you've lost an e-mail and you want to get it back -- it would be guaranteed," he said. "Let's say you are lost in a town you have never been in before and you have to get to a friend's house and there are no street signs -- the directions will work no matter what."


Early Life On Earth: Lots Of Sex And No Predators

Findings come from discovery of species of organism 540 million years old.


See also:

Thigh bone suggests pre-humans were bipedal 6 million years ago

Are you a ferocious T. rex -- or just chicken?

Bin Laden Message: Iraq Is 'Perfect Base'

(CNN) -- Al-Jazeera broadcast on Thursday an audiotape on which a voice identified as Osama bin Laden declares "Iraq is the perfect base to set up the jihad to liberate Palestine."

The voice calls on "Muslims in neighboring countries" to "do their best in supporting their mujahedeen brothers in Iraq."

"My speech to you is about the siege of Gaza and the way to liberate it," he said.


See also:

Report: World ignoring Iraqi refugee crisis

7 Killed In Raid By Somalia's Islamic Militants

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Insurgents briefly overran two government bases Thursday after hours of fighting killed at least seven people, including a 7-year-old boy, witnesses said.


Filipinos Warned On Crucifixions

Health officials in the Philippines have issued a warning to people taking part in Easter crucifixion rituals.

They have urged them to get tetanus vaccinations before they flagellate themselves and are nailed to crosses, and to practise good hygiene.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Is Religion Influencing Your Health Care?

New York -- Some 14 percent of physicians in the U.S. will favor their religious beliefs over the well-being of their patients and refrain from administering procedures that their religion is opposed to, says a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"These physicians won't tell the patient that these procedures -- such as abortion, contraception, contraception for teenagers without parental consent and terminal sedation -- even exist," says Dr. Richard Sloan, professor of Behavioral Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry of Columbia University Medical Center, New York. "They won't tell patients that they have legal options in those areas and they won't refer these patient to other physicians who will deliver those procedures."

"With 14 percent of physicians influenced by, and acting on, their religious beliefs, that translates to about 40 million Americans treated by those physicians," Dr. Sloan adds. And that's not counting the other ways in which religion creeps into health-care delivery, such as the belief that prayer will aid a patient's recovery. "The claims for a scientific basis for the impact of religious devotion on health is a complete misuse of science -- and evidence of junk science," the professor states.

Dr. Sloan, the author of Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine, will discuss, at the March 27th meeting of the New York City Atheists association, how serious ethical issues are raised by these attempts to bring religious practices into clinical medicine.

The intrusion of religion into medicine raises ethical issues of manipulation, coercion and invasion of privacy -- not to mention actually causing harm -- "all of which are completely antithetical to the role that physicians are supposed to play in clinical medicine," Dr. Sloan says.

Come and ask Dr. Sloan how we can achieve a totally scientific and unbiased health care delivery system in this country.


Thursday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m.


SLC Conference Center
352 Seventh Ave. (Bet. 29th & 30th St.) 16th floor
New York, NY


$5: donation toward the cost of our conference room.

For More Information:

Jane Everhart
Director of Communications
New York City Atheists

Kenneth Bronstein
New York City Atheists



Washington State Has The Right To Require Pharmacists To Fill Doctors' Prescriptions, Says Americans United

Humanists Join Legal Brief in Pharmacist Controversy


Go public if you have any ethical qualms, doctors ordered by GMC

Doctors' Orders

Faith+Values: Godless Masses?

Those gathering in Minneapolis next weekend for the American Atheists' national convention won't stand out. In fact, chances are they'll look just like your neighbors and co-workers.


Click HERE for details about the event.

Organic Molecule Detected On Distant Planet

Scientists have detected the presence of an organic molecule in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet for the first time, NASA announced today.


Death Toll Rises To 50 In Iraq Bombing

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Bombings killed six Iraqis and wounded 51 in Baghdad and Mosul on Tuesday, and the Iraqi Interior Ministry said the death toll in a suicide bombing the day before in Karbala rose to 50.

A car bomb exploded outside an electronics store in Mosul, killing three Iraqis and wounding 40, the U.S. military said.


See also:

Female Suicide Bomber Kills 3 In Iraq

Millions struggle to cope with the impact of five years of war

'Signs of torture' you can't imagine

13 Hurt In Yemen Attack

(CNN) -- The American Embassy in Yemen was the target of a mortar attack Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said, contradicting a suggestion from the Yemeni government the attack targeted a school where 13 were injured.


PA Urges Palestinians To 'Return'

The Palestinian Authority is planning to mark Israel's 60th anniversary by calling on all Palestinians living abroad to converge on Israel by land, sea and air.


See also:

Abbas Goes on the Warpath, Tries to Steal the Show from Hamas

Survey: Haniyeh more popular than Abbas after IDF Gaza raids

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No (27)

A Terror Tour of Israel

Landslide Victory For Iran's Conservatives

Conservatives in Iran celebrated winning a near-landslide victory in parliamentary elections, gaining an expected 70 per cent majority in the 290-seat assembly and retaining the control that they have held over parliament since 2004.


Theocracy Rejected

Frank Schaeffer, John Whitehead and Cal Thomas have repudiated the theocratic movement they once led.


Secular Activists Say Nonbelievers Forming Groups

WORCESTER -- Activist secular college students from the Boston area said here last night that campus secularism is on the rise even if most nonbelievers are unlikely to advocate against the supernatural and are unsure what to call themselves.


Intelligent Design Could Slip Into Science Class

TALLAHASSEE -- The religiously tinged evolution-questioning theory of Intelligent Design could more easily be brought up in public-school science classrooms under a proposed ''academic freedom'' legislation being pushed by conservative lawmakers.


See also:

Intelligent design politics, not science, professor says

Atheist Objects To $1 Million For Burned-Out Church

CHICAGO (AP) - Atheist activist Rob Sherman says it's unconstitutional for Governor Rod Blagojevich to give $1 million to a burned-out church.


See also:

Atheist says 'God' license plates are unfair

College Paper Apologizes For Controversial Religious Cartoons

(NBC) -- The Cavalier Daily apologized Sunday for offending University of Virginia students after it published a pair of controversial religious cartoons last week.

It all started Thursday morning when students opened the paper and saw a cartoon of Jesus on the cross making jokes like he's in a stand-up comedy show.


Arthur C Clarke, Writer And Futurist, Dies At 90

Arthur C Clarke, the pioneering science fiction author and technological visionary best known for the novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey, has died at his home in Sri Lanka, aged 90.


See also:

Arthur C. Clarke to have secular funeral

German Court Upholds Muslim Headscarf Ban In Schools

A court has ruled that a ban on Muslim teachers wearing headscarves in schools was legal. It said that teachers who covered their heads violated their obligations to keep religious expression out of the classroom.


Secrecy About Anti-Koran Film Worries Dutch Govt

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Secrecy about the content and release date of a film about the Koran by a Dutch right-wing politician is making the job of the security services more difficult, the justice minister said on Wednesday.


Vatican In Saudi Talks On Building Churches

The Vatican has been holding secret talks with the Saudi Arabian authorities on building churches in Muhammad's homeland, according to one of Pope Benedict's most senior Middle East representatives. Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hashem said: "Discussions are under way to allow the construction of churches in the kingdom. We cannot forecast the outcome."


Turkish Court To Consider Call To Ban Ruling Party

Turkey's constitutional court said yesterday it was considering a request to ban the ruling party for allegedly trying to turn the country into an Islamic state by stealth.


Congregation In Fear After Faith-Hate Attack On Canon

The wife of a clergyman beaten up in a faith-hate attack outside his church described the community's shock and distress yesterday after taking the Palm Sunday service on her husband's behalf.


See also:

Are Muslim enclaves no-go areas...

Battle for Britain's largest mosque

Terms agreed for new mosque

In Oxford, Muslim call to prayer sounds strained note

Rapist Protected By Mosque Members

Whites 'must do more to help Muslims feel at home' says research group

Why Shariah?

Muslim World Launches New Cartoon War

The entire Muslim world may start a new cartoon war in the near future. It will be no less radical and irreconcilable than the one in 2005. The first signs of confrontation between the Muslims and the West are obvious. In Afghanistan, thousands of people are burning European flags in the streets, Danish politicians are not allowed in Iran, while Saudi hackers are breaking into European sites and calling to boycott Western goods.


See also:

Cartoonist vows to sell Muhammad row drawing

Couple Die While 'Fleeing' Saudi Religious Cops

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Two members of the Saudi Arabia's powerful religious police are being questioned after a traffic accident in which a man and a woman burned to death, an official said Monday.


See also:

Saudi vice police bust restaurant over partitions

Brothel Shame Of Moral Enforcer

PRESIDENT Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "moral enforcer", who led a crackdown on women failing to adhere to Iran's strict Islamic dress codes, has been arrested in a Tehran brothel, it was reported last week.


See also:

Iran's young women find private path to freedom

Iranian elections: 'We have no hopes for the future'

Atheists Claim Censorship By Billboard Company

The group that asked Hudsonville to remove God from the city's mission statement says it is having a hard time placing a billboard espousing its position.


God's Cure For Gays Lost In Sin

Former residents say separation contracts, a ban on physical contact and teachings by an 'ex-gay' are part of Mercy Ministry's attempts to stamp out lesbianism in its flock, reports Ruth Pollard.


Flipping Particle Could Explain Missing Antimatter

IT IS one the biggest mysteries in physics - where did all the antimatter go? Now a team of physicists claims to have found the first ever hint of an answer in experimental data. The findings could signal a major crack in the standard model, the theoretical edifice that describes nature's fundamental particles and forces.


First 'Rule' Of Evolution Suggests That Life Is Destined To Become More Complex

ScienceDaily -- Researchers have found evidence which suggests that evolution drives animals to become increasingly more complex.


Religious Groups Want Russian Cartoon Channel Shut Down

Christian and Muslim groups are demanding that 2X2 be shut down because it airs cartoons, such as South Park, which they deem to be anti-religious, violent as well as promoting homosexuality.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Responding To The "Hitler Argument"

It's an inescapable feature of any debate with a believer. Like a sorcerer summoning fearsome demons to attack his enemies, the theist will call forth the shades of those terrible guardians of the Abyss: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. They were atheists, therefore godlessness can lead to atrocities far worse than the Inquisition and the Crusades.

Whether we like it or not, it's going to come up. How can we respond? Clearly arguing that Stalinism is not the result of too much rationality and critical thinking, or that Hitler was a Christian (or represented himself as one) is not effective. Like an indestructible killer from a slasher movie, the Hitler Argument just keeps getting back up for a sequel.

I propose that the best way to deal with this argument is to turn it against its wielder:

Believer: "Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, I INVOKE THEE!" *thunderclap*

Thinker: "Can I take it from your use of this argument that you are opposed to things like genocide, mass rape, and torture?"

Believer: "Of course! In fact, unless you want to be on the slippery slope to Stalin, you need belief in a higher power to provide you with a solid basis for morality."

Thinker: "So these things are wrong in principle, correct?"

Believer: "Yes, and the only way something can be wrong in principle is if there's a Supreme Moral Lawgiver. Otherwise it's all subjective, right? Checkmate!"

Thinker: "Could you please turn in your Bible to Numbers 31 and read verses 17 and 18 aloud for us?

Believer: "'Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.' But you see, God had a perfectly good reason for this--"

Thinker: "Oh, I'm sure you think it's entirely justifiable. Now, if we believe the teachings of tender Jesus meek and mild, what is your Moral Lawgiver doing with all of those Jews from the Holocaust now that Hitler is done with them? Considering that few if any of them accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior before they died..."

Believer: "Um..."

Thinker: "I think we're all familiar with the historic Christian doctrine of Hell. Namely, that those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior must depart into everlasting fiery torment. Those Jews, and any victims of the other dictators who didn't believe the right things are now trapped in an eternal concentration camp where the torture just goes on and on and on and on, forver and ever and ever and ever and ever. The first ten trillion years are only the beginning. So, what was it you have against Hitler, Stalin and the rest?"

The fact of the matter is that if the Abrahamic deity existed, he would be a totalitarian despot in the mold of the believers' favorite atheists. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to phrase it the other way around. For nearly two thousand years before any modern totalitarianism raised its ugly head, the Christian West looked forward to the establishment of a totalitarian state as an ideal. In the "Kingdom of Heaven," there is an Absolute Ruler who knows all, sees all, controls all and punishes all. There is no dissent. All rebels and enemies are herded together into a vast place of torture. Everyone dresses the same[1] and lives only to praise the Leader.[2] As Christopher Hitchins so eloquently puts it, a celestial North Korea.

With this as the prevailing concept of the perfect society, is it any surprise that as belief in its eschatological fulfillment in Heaven began to wane, that people might try to create the ideal here on Earth? Here's a clue: Most people know that Hitler sought to create a "Thousand Year Reich." Now, why would Hitler want his empire to last a thousand years, rather than five thousand or ten thousand or forever? Wouldn't he at least want his Reich to endure longer than the Pharaohs and the Romans? Is there some place in our Western cultural heritage that speaks of an ideal regime that lasts a thousand years?

Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

--Revelation 20:6

Speaking of the Book of Revelation, it isn't secularists who have wet dreams about the apocalyptic destruction of Planet Earth and the genocidal slaughter of most of the population.[3] Unlike the vast majority of modern secularists, believers still uphold the totalitarian ideal, provided it's under the management of their god. With a straight face, they can explain to you how they believe that torture, mass rape, and genocide are in fact the will of a Being of absolute moral perfection, preserved for the ages in his "holy" Word. Not merely forgiveable or excusable or even justifiable, but worthy of unending praise.

If the believer wishes to pose as an indignant enemy of totalitarianism, then s/he has an obligation to join us in rejecting the totalitarian ideal, which is embodied first and most fully in the "sacred" texts of the Abrahamic religions.


1. Revelation 6:11, 7:9

2. Revelation 4:1-11

3. Case in point: the Left Behind series.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

FreeThoughtAction Hero Of The Day - 03/16/08

James Madison
James Madison (March 16, 1751 - June 28, 1836)

According to Wikipedia, Madison was "an American politician and fourth President of the United States of America (1809-1817), was one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States. Considered to be the 'Father of the Constitution', Madison played a bigger role in designing the 1787 document more than anyone else. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, still the most influential commentary on the Constitution. As a leader in the first Congresses, he drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and thus is also known as the 'Father of the Bill of Rights'. As a political theorist, Madison's most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to limit the powers of special interests, which Madison called factions. He believed very strongly that the new nation should fight against aristocracy and corruption (especially of British origin), and was deeply committed to creating mechanisms that would ensure Republicanism in the United States."

Some Madison quotes:

"Democracy does not need the church, or the clergy."

"A just government, instituted to perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy."

"That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and to their eternal infamy the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such a business."

"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient allies."

"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

"I must admit moreover that it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency of a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded by an entire abstinence of the Government from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect against trespass on its legal rights by others."

"The civil government ... functions with complete success ... by the total separation of the Church from the State."

"Religion flourishes in greater purity without than with the aid of government."

"And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

"Who does not see that the same authority, which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever."

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

"This freedom arises from that multiplicity of sects, which pervades America, and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest."

"Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history."

The Great Tantra Challenge

On 3 March 2008, in a popular TV show, Sanal Edamaruku, the president of Rationalist International, challenged India's most "powerful" tantrik (black magician) to demonstrate his powers on him. That was the beginning of an unprecedented experiment. After all his chanting of mantra (magic words) and ceremonies of tantra failed, the tantrik decided to kill Sanal Edamaruku with the "ultimate destruction ceremony" on live TV. Sanal Edamaruku agreed and sat in the altar of the black magic ritual. India TV observed skyrocketing viewership rates.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Indians Blinded Looking For Vision Of Mary

KOTTAYAM, India (UPI) -- Reports in India of a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary in the sky have led about 50 people to blind themselves by staring at the sun.


Americans Injured In Pakistan Bombing

(CBS/AP) A bomb exploded in the back garden of an Italian restaurant popular with foreigners in Pakistan's capital Saturday night, killing two people and wounding 11, police said.


Hardliners Ahead In Iranian Poll

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Conservative opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a strong showing in Iran's parliamentary elections, according to partial results Saturday. The split could mean frictions between the president and former supporters disillusioned by his fiery, populist rule.


The Morality Police

The morality police try to roll back reform amid culture clash in Iran.


Britons Losing Religious Beliefs

ALMOST half of Britons doubt the existence of God or are confirmed atheists, research has found.

The think-tank, Theos, has found that most of those who say they are Christians do not practise their religion.


Friday, March 14, 2008

FreeThoughtAction Hero Of The Day - 03/14/08

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 - April 18, 1955)

According to Wikipedia, Einstein "was a German-born theoretical physicist who is widely considered to have been one of the greatest physicists of all time. While best known for the theory of relativity (and specifically mass-energy equivalence, E=mc2), he was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics 'for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.'

"Einstein's many contributions to physics include his special theory of relativity, which reconciled mechanics with electromagnetism, and his general theory of relativity which extended the principle of relativity to nonuniform motion, creating a new theory of gravitation. His other contributions include relativistic cosmology, capillary action, critical opalescence, classical problems of statistical mechanics and their application to quantum theory, an explanation of the Brownian movement of molecules, atomic transition probabilities, the quantum theory of a monatomic gas, thermal properties of light with low radiation density (which laid the foundation for the photon theory), a theory of radiation including stimulated emission, the conception of a unified field theory, and the geometrization of physics.

"In 1999 Einstein was named Time magazine's 'Person of the Century'. In popular culture the name 'Einstein' has become synonymous with genius."

Einstein said he believed in Spinoza's God. Spinoza's God "is the natural world and has no personality."

His use of the word "God" to decribe his religious attitude towards Nature, caused a certain amount of confusion among some people, which he later attempted to clarify.

Here are some of his relevant quotes on the matter:

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.

I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.

It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere.... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the action of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a Supernatural Being.

Dolphin Rescues Stranded Whales

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- A dolphin swam up to two distressed whales that appeared headed for death in a beach stranding in New Zealand and guided them to safety, witnesses said Wednesday.


Military: Al-Qaida Remains Deadly, Alive In Iraq

WASHINGTON - Al-Qaida is in Iraq to stay, according to military leaders and other officials.


See also:

The cult of the suicide bomber

Happy Pi Day!

Savor A Virtual Piece Of Pi

San Francisco's Exploratorium makes an irrationally big deal out of pi: For 20 years, geeks have gathered at the science museum to troop in circular processions, solve pesky puzzles, string beads and consume mass quantities of pie - all building to a peak on 3/14 at 1:59 p.m., when the time lines up to form the first six digits of the mysterious and marvelous number.

This year marks a nice round number for Pi Day, an observance honoring one of the least-round numbers in mathematics. You don't even have to be at the Exploratorium to savor the 20th-anniversary celebration. Online resources, ranging from Web sites to the virtual world known as Second Life, are serving up a substantial slice of the Pi Day experience.


...and more about Pi Day HERE.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Humanists Join Legal Brief In Pharmacist Controversy

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC), the legal arm of the American Humanist Association (AHA), participated Wednesday as a sign-on to a "friend of the court" brief prepared by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The brief was submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and sets forth the legal opinion that Washington State has the right to require pharmacists to fill doctors' prescriptions. The brief argues that two Washington State Board of Pharmacy regulations, which require pharmacies to dispense all medications in a timely manner, don't impinge upon the religious freedom rights of pharmacists and should therefore be upheld.

The brief in the case of Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky asks the appeals court to kick the decision back to the district court with instructions to use a different standard for reviewing the regulations.

"Pharmacists know what they're getting into when they take the job," commented Bob Ritter, legal coordinator of the AHLC. "Though pharmacies should accommodate religious beliefs when possible, the rights of the patient to receive needed medication takes precedence. Moreover, the regulations don't target any particular religious belief, as secular pharmacists are required to fill prescriptions also. So the idea that pharmacists are being negatively singled out due to their religion doesn't hold true."

The regulations were put in place by the pharmacy board after it became aware of pharmacists in Washington and other states refusing on religious grounds to fill prescriptions for medicines such as birth control and the morning-after pill. However, as noted in the brief, regulations appropriately accommodate pharmacists' religious beliefs by allowing them to have a colleague at the same store fill the prescription (if the other pharmacist is willing to do so). The brief argues that the regulations don't single out religious beliefs, and requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions is a religiously-neutral regulation.

The American Humanist Association was involved in reviewing the Americans United-written brief and recommending changes.



Washington State Has The Right To Require Pharmacists To Fill Doctors' Prescriptions, Says Americans United

Space Rocks Brought Life's Raw Material

Nobody knows how life on Earth began, but the primordial soup likely got a lot of its ingredients from space.

Scientists have discovered concentrations of amino acids in two meteorites that are more than ten times higher than levels previously measured in other similar meteorites.

Amino acids are organic molecules that form the backbone of proteins, which in turn build many of the structures and drive many of the chemical reactions inside living cells. The production of proteins is believed to constitute one of the first steps in the emergence of life.


See also:

Saturn probe snaps close-up of mystery moon

Lutheran Group: Marriage Only Man-Woman

NEW YORK - A task force drafting a statement on sexuality for the nation's largest Lutheran group said Thursday that the church should continue defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

However, the panel did not condemn same-gender relationships. The committee expressed regret that historic Lutheran teachings have been used to hurt gays and lesbians, and acknowledged that some congregations already accept same-sex couples.


Hard-Liners Expect To Dominate Iran Election

QOM, Iran - Ali Farahani smiles as he talks about Iran's parliament elections Friday. The young cleric in this spiritual center of the Islamic revolution says the vote will sweep the country closer to hard-liners' ideal of the Islamic state.


Reprieve For Gay Iranian Asylum Seeker

Britain granted a gay Iranian teenager a reprieve on Thursday from deportation to Iran, where he says he could be hanged for his homosexuality.


Al Qaeda Posts Photos Of Austrian Hostages

(AP) Al Qaeda's branch for North Africa on Thursday set a three-day deadline to meet conditions for the release of two Austrian tourists it claimed to have kidnapped in Tunisia last month.


Hussein's Iraq And Al Qaeda Not Linked, Pentagon Says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military's first and only study looking into ties between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda showed no connection between the two, according to a military report released by the Pentagon.


U.S. Is Sent Severed Fingers Of Iraq Kidnap Victims

Story Highlights:

FBI says DNA checks out as victims'; source says DNA came from fingers

Death toll from Baghdad parked car bomb rises to 15; 65 injured

Kidnapped archbishop found dead in Iraq


Priest's Sentence Extended In Rwanda Genocide Case

ARUSHA, Tanzania (AP) -- A U.N. tribunal has extended the sentence of a priest to life in prison after upholding his war crimes conviction for ordering militiamen to burn and bulldoze a church with 1,500 people inside during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.


EU Concerned By Growing Use Of Religious Defamation Laws Worldwide

GENEVA: The European Union wants to stop the growing worldwide trend of using religious defamation laws to limit free speech.


See also:

'Islamophobia' a threat to world security, say Muslim states

Islamic states seek world freedom curbs-humanists

Bishop Accuses Gays Of 'Conspiracy' Against The Catholic Church

A Catholic bishop has accused the gay community of leading a "conspiracy" against Christianity by allying itself with Holocaust survivors.

The Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Devine, says a "homosexual lobby" has aligned itself with minority groups, including Holocaust survivors, to gain persecuted status.


In an attack on openly gay actor Sir Ian McKellen the bishop said: "I saw actor Ian McKellen being honoured for his work on behalf of homosexuals, when a century ago Oscar Wilde was locked up and put in jail."


See also:

Ban anti-Catholic books in schools, says bishop

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Still Time To Sign Up

The Countdown has begun for the American Atheists National Conference, March 21-23 in Minneapolis, MN.

Speakers include:

* RICHARD DAWKINS ~ Professor at Oxford University, author of numerous books including The Selfish Gene and the new best-seller The God Delusion.

* LAWRENCE KRAUSS ~ Theoretical physicist, astronomer, author of several books including The Search for Dark Matter in the Universe and The Physics of Star Trek.

* ELLEN JOHNSON ~ President of American Atheists, Executive Director of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee.

* ROBERT LANHAM ~ Dubbed "The Margaret Mead of the North American Weirdo," Bob is author of several best-sellers including The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right.

* DR. JACK ELLER ~ Noted anthropologist, author speaking on his book Religion is not what you believe; How Religion works without belief or meaning to Colonize Experience.

* MARY STANTON ~ Historian and author of Freedom Walk, a book about white postal worker and Atheist Bill Moore who was murdered during his famous civil rights walk from Chattanooga to Jackson, Mississippi.

* RENEE SALM ~ Historian and researcher, speaking on The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus.

* GREYDON SQUARE ~ Rap artist who promotes rationality and freethought through hip-hop -- and he is completing his degree in physics!

* EDDIE TABASH ~ Attorney, civil rights and First Amendment activist speaking on The Threat of the Religious Right to our Modern Liberties.

* LOIS UTLEY ~ Director of the MergerWach Project, a national initiative working to protect patients' rights and access to care from the threat of faith-based healthcare restrictions. She speaks on Medicine and Morality: How Religious Restrictions Can Affect Your Health Care.

The venue is the spectacular Minneapolis Marriott City Center located downtown at 30 S. 7th St. in Minneapolis. There is a special convention room rate of only $99 per night! That rate begins two days prior to the convention and extends for two days following the event -- this allows you to arrive early or stay late and make a mini-vacation of the Conference weekend. You must make your reservations directly with the hotel, however, and mention that you are with the American Atheists Conference.

Check out for more details, and to register.

Washington State Has The Right To Require Pharmacists To Fill Doctors' Prescriptions, Says Americans United

A Washington State Board of Pharmacy regulation that requires pharmacies to dispense all medications in a timely manner does not trample on religious freedom rights and should be upheld, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has told a federal appeals court.


Beauty Ad Banned After Christian Outcry

A TV ad campaign featuring lingerie-clad women praying for beautiful hair has been banned by the advertising watchdog because it might offend Christians.

The series of three TV ads, created by ad agency TBWA Manchester for beauty firm ghd, had an overall religious theme using the strapline "Ghd. A new religion for hair".


Church Gunman's Letter Shows Him Angry, Confused About God

DENVER -- Sometime before his deadly rampage at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, gunman Matthew Murray penned a letter addressed to God in which he poured out his frustration and confusion over his faith and ranted about the hypocrisy of Christians.


"I didn't even ask to be born. Jesus, where are you? Do you even care these days ?... Why didn't you ever answer my cries for help? Why do I have to be hurt by so many Christians?" he asked.


Tampa Televangelists Draw Senate Scrutiny

Two U.S. Senators sent out a new round of letters today to some of the nation's most high-profile televangelists, urging them to turn over key financial records. The Senators told the ministries that they want to know how their "non-profit organizations are structured and operate," amid allegations that some of the televangelists have misused church funds to enrich themselves.


Iraq Rocket Attack Kills 3 U.S. Soldiers

(CBS/AP) Three American soldiers were killed in a rocket attack in southern Iraq on Wednesday, bringing to 12 the number of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq over the past three days.


See also:

Iraq Violence Sees Spike

Violence Follows Hamas Appeal For Calm

(CBS/AP) The Hamas prime minister called publicly Wednesday for a period of calm with Israel, laying out conditions that would end attacks on Palestinian militants, open Gaza's borders and lift economic sanctions.

But shortly after the appeal by Ismail Haniyeh, Israeli troops opened fire on a car in the West Bank town of Bethlehem and killed four Palestinian militants, clouding the prospects for a cease-fire.

This violence comes after an earlier arrest raid in the West Bank Wednesday morning where Israeli troops killed an Islamic Jihad militant in a pre-dawn gun battle, according to Palestinians and the Israeli military.


Suicide Bombings In Lahore Kill At Least 31

Two suicide attacks killed at least 31 people and injured more than 200 in Lahore yesterday as suspected Islamist militants escalated their campaign of mayhem in Pakistan's largest cities.


See also:

Al Qaeda probed over Lahore blasts

Violence In Indian State Is Partly Fuelled By Religious Intolerance

Recent religious conflict in the Indian state of Orissa has been aided by the aggressive evangelising of missionaries from outside the region, says an official with the largest traditional Protestant denomination in northern India.


Gay Teenager Faces Return To Iran After Dutch Ruling

A gay teenager who claims he faces the death penalty in Iran after his boyfriend was executed there two years ago has spoken of his anger and disappointment at losing his legal battle against deportation.

Mehdi Kazemi, 19, who sought sanctuary in Britain in 2005 when he discovered that his partner had been hanged in Tehran for engaging in homosexual acts, is expected to be returned to Iran in the next few weeks.


See also:

Now Iranian lesbian who fled to Britain faces deportation


Woman artist gets death threats over gay Muslim photos

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

10 Million-Year-Old Fossil Found In New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A geologic mapping project led to the finding of a 10 million-year-old fossil that's now being studied at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.


It belonged to a group of large oreodonts that resembled a cross between a pig and a camel which had large heads, small trunks, rather short legs on a longish body.


Bill Promotes School Religion At Expense Of Education

EDMOND -- The Oklahoma House of Representatives Education Committee has just approved House Bill 2211. The bill is expected to pass the full House, and then to go to the Senate. Its authors describe it as promoting freedom of religion in the public schools. In fact, it does the opposite.


The bill requires public schools to guarantee students the right to express their religious viewpoints in a public forum, in class, in homework and in other ways without being penalized. If a student's religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student's incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.

The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law. Even simple, factual information such as the age of the earth (4.65 billion years) would be subject to the student's belief, and if the student answered 6,000 years based on his or her religious belief, the school would have to credit it as correct. Science education becomes absurd under such a situation.


Afghan Death Toll Soars To 8,000 Last Year

The United Nations has delivered a grim assessment of the conflict in Afghanistan, reporting that violence increased sharply last year and resulted in the deaths of more than 8,000 people, at least 1,500 of them civilians.


Bomb Strikes Bus In Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A roadside bomb in southern Iraq struck a bus on Tuesday, killing 16 passengers and wounding 22, an Interior Ministry official said.


Meanwhile, five people were killed and 14 wounded when a suicide bomber slammed into a checkpoint in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

In Baghdad, one person was killed and eight people were wounded Tuesday when a gunman shot at a minibus carrying employees from Iraq's Electricity Ministry, an Interior Ministry official said.

In northern Iraq, authorities found a grave containing 20 bodies, police said.

Police and a local citizens group found five children, six women and nine men in the grave, just northeast of Samarra.


Other mass graves have been found recently, including one discovered Saturday with up to 100 bodies just north of Baquba in Diyala province.


See also:

8 U.S. troops, 14 Iraqis die in wave of insurgent bombings

3 More GI Deaths Reported In Iraq

Iraq, once secular, now dominated by religious parties

Exhaustive review finds no link between Saddam and al Qaida

Al-Qaeda in Iraq may try for spectacular attacks

Iraq will not be a Qaedistan

Suicide Bombers Target Pakistan Investigators

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Two suicide bombers exploded a car Tuesday at a building containing the offices of Pakistan's national investigative agency, destroying it and killing and wounding people inside.

Police said 17 people died and 175 were wounded in the attack in Lahore, and three more were killed in a separate suicide bombing in an area of the city known as Model Town. All three bombers died.


See also:

At Least 24 Killed as Two Bombs Strike Pakistan

Gay Iranian Teen Loses Asylum Appeal

(CNN) -- The Netherlands has rejected an asylum plea by a gay Iranian teenager trying to escape possible persecution in his homeland.


Gay Priest Not Welcome At World Meeting

LEADERS of the US Episcopal Church were told that the gay man they elevated to bishop will not be allowed to attend a top, once-a-decade worldwide Anglican Church meeting this year.


See also:

Catholic couple win first round in civil partnership row with police

US Evangelical Rift On Global Warming Widens

A group of more than 40 leading Southern Baptists has widened the divisions within the powerful American evangelical movement over global warming, denouncing the denomination's stance as "too timid" and warning that its cautious response to the environment is seen around the world as "uncaring, reckless and ill-informed".


Monday, March 10, 2008

Saudi Woman Drives On YouTube

When Wajeha Al Huwaider gets behind the wheel of a car, it's a daring and defiant act, flying -- or driving -- in the face of Saudi Arabia's ban on female drivers.

This weekend, in honor of International Women's Day and in protest of the law, she posted a video on Youtube of her driving inside the kingdom.


5 U.S. Troops Killed In Suicide Blast

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- At least five U.S. soldiers on foot patrol were killed and three others wounded in a suicide bombing Monday in Baghdad, U.S. military officials in Iraq said.


Death Threats Posted To Irish Fertility Clinics

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) -- Letters containing death threats and shotgun cartridges were mailed to two Irish government ministers and officials at two prominent fertility clinics, the targets of the threats said Monday.


U.N. Blasts Israel For West Bank Housing Expansion Plan

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel on Monday for planning to build housing units in a West Bank settlement, saying the decision conflicts with "Israel's obligation under the road map" for Middle East peace.


See also:

In a Jerusalem Suburb, Jewish Cultures Clash

When God Goes To The Office

(LifeWire) -- Rob Skinner did not expect to find a chaplain in the office when he started his sales job at Piedmont Air Conditioning in Raleigh, North Carolina. "I was a little worried because I didn't want God shoved down my throat," says Skinner, 38, a self-described liberal Christian.


Vatican Lists New Sinful Behaviors

ROME, Italy (AP) -- A Vatican official has listed drugs, pollution and genetic manipulations as well as social and economic injustices as new areas of sinful behavior.


See also:

Pope could face protests in Ireland over abuse cases

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Clashing Over Church Ritual And Flag Protocol At The Naval Academy Chapel

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- On Sundays at the Naval Academy Chapel, at a few minutes past 11 a.m., the choir stops singing and a color guard carrying the academy flag and the American flag strides up the aisle.

Below a cobalt blue stained-glass window of Jesus, one midshipman dips the academy flag before the altar cross, and the other dips the American flag.


Gravity Helps Astronomers See The Unseen

Einstein predicted that the gravity of a massive object such as a galaxy will bend light like a lens. In some cases, the lensing can image distant objects that lie behind the galaxy. Astronomers have studied such gravitational lenses for decades. Now they are ready to turn them into a powerful tool to test the latest theories of the structure and evolution of the universe.