Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Day and the history of time

IT'S HAPPENING again: The champagne. The ball dropping. The resolutions of everything we plan to change.

But what are we really celebrating on New Year's Eve? And why do we consider tonight -- of all nights -- as the last night of the year?

MORE: http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2013/12/31/the-meaning-and-mystery-new-year-day/LxoUXb77uEyErfdhgMsPXP/story.html

Top 10 Atheist Stories of 2013

Top Ten Stories of the year for atheists...

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/31/top-10-atheist-stories-of-2013/

A Little List: The Top Ten Church-State Stories Of 2013

Here are some prominent church-state developments of 2013.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/a-little-list-the-top-ten-church-state-stories-of-2013

Imprisonment for Blasphemy and Religious Dissent Around the World Detailed in New Report

Human Rights Without Frontiers International, a Brussels-based nonprofit, has released a rather comprehensive report on those who have been imprisoned for religious dissent around the world, and the countries who imprison them.


Atheism In Politics: The Last Taboo

The Oprah-Nyad Affair

How Do Atheists Experience Wonder and Awe?

MORE: http://thehumanist.org/january-february-2014/the-oprah-nyad-affair/

See also...

The Church of the Greater Solipsism

Religious Liberty Group Compares Flying Spaghetti Monster Display in Wisconsin State Capitol to honoring the KKK

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is clearly run by a bunch of people who failed the Analogy section of the old SATs.


Merry Times for Atheism

As Americans gather to celebrate Christmas, fewer and fewer actually believe they are celebrating the birth of a divine being who subsequently died and then rose from the dead. But if you look around during the holiday season, that doesn't seem to matter much.


During Religious Season, Nonbelievers Assert Right to Celebrate

In the darkness of an Upper West Side concert hall last weekend, 150 audience members holding twinkling plastic candles sang and swayed to celebrate reason and the season. Snow fell with abandon outside.

MORE: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/22/nyregion/during-religious-season-nonbelievers-assert-right-to-celebrate.html?_r=1&

Yuletide Tales: Santa, Singing Mobs, and the Time Christmas Was Canceled

The origins of Christmas and its celebration over the centuries have given rise to many holiday tales.

MORE: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131222-science-santa-claus-christmas-jesus-pagan-saturnalia-wassail-puritan/

Nasty Church Volunteers Almost Ruin a Family's Christmas, But Atheists Save the Day

What an odd flare-up! In Chickasha, Oklahoma, Tiffany White and her husband brought their 7-month-old baby to the Bible Baptist Church's toy shop for Christmas presents that the church gives away for families in need. But things got weird and nasty.


See also...

Atheists Save Christmas For A Poor Family After Their Church Refused To Help Them

The Best of the Christmas Hate Mail

Yes, it's that time of year, when humanists and atheists are to blame for starting the fictional "War on Christmas"! While the American Humanist Association usually receives some "hate mail" around the holiday season by virtue of being nonbelievers, we experienced a significant spike in 2013, mainly due to the AHA's success in stopping two public schools from endorsing the evangelical Christian organization, Operation Christmas Child.


Of All the Places an Atheist Display Would Be Vandalized, This One Caught Me By Surprise...

Get this: We're used to vandalism on atheist billboards and banners, but the latest example of an atheist display getting destroyed took place at a senior center in California, where the Rossmoor Atheist and Agnostic Club had put up a Tree of Knowledge.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/24/of-all-the-places-an-atheist-display-would-be-vandalized-this-one-caught-me-by-surprise/

Presidential Piety: Obama's Faith Is In The Public Eye Again

The New York Times reports that in lieu of church, Obama celebrated the holiday by singing carols, opening presents with his family and greeting soldiers at a local military base in his birth state, Hawaii.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/presidential-piety-obama-s-faith-is-in-the-public-eye-again

Voucher Swamp: Audits Of Louisiana's 'School Choice' Program Find Oversight Lacking, Desegregation Efforts Stalled

How many problems have to be exposed before Louisiana's voucher scheme is finally shut down?

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/voucher-swamp-audits-of-louisiana-s-school-choice-program-find-oversight

The Waltons' War On Public Education: Heirs Of Wal-Mart Founder Spend Millions Supporting School Vouchers

The real cash cow in the voucher scheme business is the Walton Family Foundation, which has been subsidizing voucher proponents for years.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/the-waltons-war-on-public-education-heirs-of-wal-mart-founder-spend

Catholic Groups Ask Court to Halt Health Care Law

The groups say the law infringes on their freedom to practice religion without government interference.

MORE: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/catholic-groups-court-halt-health-care-law-21385807

Should Catholic Judges Recuse Themselves from the Contraceptive Mandate Cases?

If simply filling out a form objecting to contraception makes one an accomplice to evil, what about rendering a judicial decision upholding the contraceptive mandate? This would appear to be a much more affirmative and consequential act than the completion of a form. But if that is the case, how can a judge who is a good Catholic by Church standards possibly render a decision upholding the mandate?


Push Back At Notre Dame: Federal Court Rejects University's Attack On Contraceptive Access

The University of Notre Dame is more than happy to rake in as much taxpayer support as it can get. But it doesn't want to abide by even the most reasonable of government regulations.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/push-back-at-notre-dame-federal-court-rejects-university-s-attack-on

Hawaiian Atheists' Lawsuit Alleging That Some Churches Paid Unfair Rental Rates at Public Schools Dismissed by Judge

If Kahle and Huber won their lawsuit, the churches could have owed the state up to $16,800,000, three times the amount they owed the schools, if it was found that they knowingly evaded the law.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/22/hawaiian-atheists-lawsuit-alleging-that-some-churches-paid-unfair-rental-rates-at-public-schools-dismissed-by-judge/

Jesus Christ Sends a Message in a Cheesecake

A cheesecake comes out of the oven, it cools, and a crack on the top forms in the vague shape of a cross. Is it just an accident? Did someone just cut the shape into the cake? Or, as reporter Daniel Clark seems to ask without a trace of irony, "is this Jesus Christ coming back and showing support for this family's religious beliefs?"

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/27/jesus-christ-sends-a-message-in-a-cheesecake/

See also...

It's a Christmas Miracle: Man Finds Mother Mary in Tie-Dye Shirt

You've Heard of Bible Beaters, But This is Ridiculous

In Georgia, two soused Christians were having a theological argument. To no one's surprise, it soon devolved into a violent farce.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/29/youve-heard-of-bible-beaters-but-this-is-ridiculous/

In Utah, judge's ruling ignites same-sex marriage frenzy

It was joyful mayhem Friday night in the county clerk's office in Salt Lake City, Utah, after a federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law "conflicts with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law."

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/20/justice/utah-same-sex-marriage-ruling/index.html?sr=sharebar_facebook

Ohio must recognize gay marriages on death certificates: Judge

A federal judge ruled on Monday that Ohio must acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates and went further in his decision to say that lower courts were now applying the recent historic Supreme Court decision striking down the federal ban on recognition of such unions.

MORE: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/23/22023189-ohio-must-recognize-gay-marriages-on-death-certificates-judge?lite

Public's Views on Human Evolution

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that "humans and other living things have evolved over time," while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.


See also...

Public's Views on Human Evolution (full report)

Americans Have Little Faith In Scientists, Science Journalists: Poll

In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, only 36 percent of Americans reported having "a lot" of trust that information they get from scientists is accurate and reliable. Fifty-one percent said they trust that information only a little, and another 6 percent said they don't trust it at all.

MORE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/21/faith-in-scientists_n_4481487.html

Religion as a Product of Psychotropic Drug Use

How much of religious history was influenced by mind-altering substances?

MORE: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/religion-as-a-product-of-psychotropic-drug-use/282484/

New Study Exposes Acupuncture As Pseudoscience

A new study published online in the journal Cancer suggests that any relief acupuncture brings may be the result of a placebo effect.

MORE: http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/New-Study-Exposes-Acupuncture-As-Pseudoscience-5094637.php?forceWeb=1

Bat sex? Doomsday bosons? Help us pick the year's weirdest science

May the weirdest science win!

MORE: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/bat-sex-doomsday-bosons-help-us-pick-years-weirdest-science-2D11821224

Walking the Walk: What Sharks, Honeybees and Humans Have in Common

A research team led by UA anthropologist David Raichlen has found that the Hadza tribe's movements while foraging can be described by a mathematical pattern called a Lévy walk -- a pattern that also is found in the movements of many other animals.

MORE: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131223181953.htm

Brazilians celebrate Goddess of the Sea

Devotees traditionally mark the day dressed in white while carrying a statue of Iemanja to the beach along with lighting candles and tossing flowers and other offerings into the sea.


Irish atheists increase by 400 percent in ten years, survey shows

The latest figures confirm a 2011 a poll by Gallup International which showed Ireland now ranks among the top ten atheist nations worldwide, in a huge shift from the last poll in 2005. In the six years between polls, according to the results, one in five Irish people set aside religion.

MORE: http://www.irishcentral.com/news/-Irish-atheists-increase-by-400-percent-in-ten-years-survey-shows-237949531.html

In Iceland, Construction Projects Are Being Held Up Because They Might Hurt the Elves. (Seriously.)

I don't know how to put this any more bluntly: In Iceland, a lot of people believe in elves. Like, more than half of them. And these Huldufolk live in rocks.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/23/in-iceland-construction-projects-are-being-held-up-because-they-might-hurt-the-elves-seriously/

Russia's Putin: Pussy Riot duo to be freed despite 'disgraceful' protest

MOSCOW -- Two jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot will be freed under an amnesty that will also see the release of 30 environmental activists, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, eliminating two points of tension with the West as the country gets set to host the Winter Olympics.

MORE: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/19/21964503-russias-putin-pussy-riot-duo-to-be-freed-despite-disgraceful-protest

See also...

Freed Pussy Riot rockers say they will continue to rock Russian system

In Santa's bag: booze, drugs and immorality, Turkish Muslim group says

"Traditions such as new year celebrations, Christmas tree decorations, and Santa Claus leaving presents are leading to degeneration of our culture and leading to identity crises in our society. It tears our youth from their own culture and familiarizes them with the culture of the West leading them to embrace those values," the Anatolia Youth Association said in a statement.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/26/world/europe/turkey-santa-protest/index.html

Gay and afraid in Uganda

Members of Uganda's lesbian and gay community fear they'll be persecuted even more than they are, as Arwa Damon reports.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2013/12/27/pkg-damon-uganda-gay-prejudice.cnn.html

See also...

LGBT in Uganda: Seeking acceptance from family, homeland

U.S., Richard Branson slam Uganda's anti-gay bill

Uganda's gays fear mounting violence in wake of anti-gay bill's passage

Ugandan parliament passes anti-gay bill that includes life in prison

At least 13 dead in suicide attack on military post near Benghazi

While no one has claimed responsibility for these attacks, many residents blame the violence on Islamist militants in the eastern region, and some of these groups have ties to al Qaeda.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/22/world/africa/libya-blast/index.html

Wife: Saudi blogger recommended for apostasy trial

A judge in Saudi Arabia has recommended that imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi go before a high court on a charge of apostasy, which would carry the death penalty upon conviction, according to Badawi's wife.


Suicide attack in Kabul kills 3 troops

A claim of responsibility was posted on the Taliban's official website.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/27/world/asia/afghanistan-violence/index.html

Still out there and growing -- al Qaeda on the rebound, experts say

Two years after the end of the Iraq war, the U.S. State Department confirmed this week that it is providing the fragile country with sophisticated weapons and drones. Iraq needs help fighting against a growing and serious threat -- al Qaeda.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/28/world/meast/al-qaeda-growing/index.html

See also...

18 dead in Christmas Day attacks near Iraq churches

Militants in Iraq storm TV station; anchor among dead


Iraq police: At least 15 Iraqi army soldiers killed in ambush

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mr. Deity and the War

What religion has contributed to the world this month - Episode 13

A Fascinating New Poll Shows That Americans Are Losing Faith In God

A new Harris Poll released today reveals that only 74% of Americans believe in God, an 8% decline since 2009.


See also...

Poll: Americans' Belief in God Is Strong--But Declining

Harris Poll: In the U.S., a Clear Win For Rationality -- Belief In God and Heaven Declines

Americans' Belief in God, Miracles and Heaven Declines

Is God Dying?

The decline of religion and the rise of the "nones"

MORE: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-god-dying

See also...

Religion in America's states and counties, in 6 maps

Study: Atheists Face Global Discrimination

'The overwhelming majority of countries fail to respect the rights of atheists and freethinkers'


See also...

New Report Details the Worst Countries in the World in Which to be an Atheist

You can be put to death for atheism in 13 countries around the world

Journalists face 'religious straitjackets' in half of all countries

Blasphemy: Information Sacrificed on Altar of Religion highlights the many ways in which states and societies, often motivated by politics and power, use religious sensitivities to stifle dialogue, debate and dissent.

MORE: http://brianpellot.religionnews.com/2013/12/19/journalists-face-religious-straitjackets-half-countries/#sthash.KbmdiT1w.vpQyItJb.dpuf

Secular Coalition Uses Fashion Models, Food to Talk Separation of Church and State

It had all the makings of a Christmas party: sparkling cider, cheese, chocolate-covered strawberries, even fashion models wearing sparkling gowns. But instead of celebrating the upcoming Christian holiday, on Monday the Secular Coalition for America -- a group that represents the atheists, agnostic and religiously unaffiliated people in the country -- colorfully introduced the 12-months-in-the-making "Model Secular Policy Guide," a book of separation-of-church-and-state policy prescriptions.

MORE: http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2013/12/10/secular-coalition-uses-fashion-models-food-to-talk-separation-of-church-and-state

See also...

The Secular Policy Recommendations That Will Make the Religious Right Squirm

Atheism flexing its muscles: Secular group endorses six Democrats in upcoming races

The Last Taboo

It's harder in America to come out as an atheist politician than a gay one. Why?

MORE: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/12/the-last-taboo-atheists-politicians-100901.html#ixzz2nyGicbIq

In season of giving, atheist groups' charity rebuffed

As the holiday season peaks, atheist and humanist groups around the country have seen their charitable impulses rebuffed by both Christian and secular organizations.

MORE: http://www.religionnews.com/2013/12/19/season-giving-atheist-groups-charity-rebuffed/

'Keep Saturn in Saturnalia' Billboard Counters Christian Sign in New Jersey Town

The billboard will be up for a month and is meant to counter the "Keep Christ in Christmas" display by the Knights of Columbus that the borough seems to think is appreciated by persons of non-Christian religions and those who follow no creed at all.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/13/keep-saturn-in-saturnalia-billboard-counters-christian-sign-in-new-jersey-town/

See also...

Last Night, the 'Keep Saturn in Saturnalia' Billboard Was Nearly Set on Fire

Police seek pair who tried to set fire to New Jersey 'Saturnalia' atheism billboard

NY State Senator Says Times Square Atheist Billboard is Religious Persecution Like the Kind That Led to the Holocaust

New York State Senator Andrew Lanza is outraged by American Atheists' billboard in Times Square.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/17/ny-state-senator-says-times-square-atheist-billboard-is-religious-persecution-like-the-kind-that-led-to-the-holocaust-2/

Christmas Stories: All Too Often, Religious Right Tales Of Holiday Horror Don't Add Up

There's no war on Christmas. There's just the same old fight against fundamentalist zealots who believe their crabbed, narrow and exclusionary interpretation of Christianity is the only valid one.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/christmas-stories-all-too-often-religious-right-tales-of-holiday-horror-don

Hoax About Atheist Teacher Suspending Student Who Said 'Merry Christmas' Goes Viral

The War on Christmas meme must not be going too well if you have to resort to making shit up.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/18/hoax-about-atheist-teacher-suspending-student-who-said-merry-christmas-goes-viral/

See also...

Angry conservatives harass school over satirical 'war on Christmas' story

Todd Starnes of Fox News Lies Again: A Texas School Did Not Ban Christmas Trees and the Colors Red & Green

I think this is the third fake story "reported" by Fox News' Todd Starnes in the past two weeks. But I could be wrong since I've only read three of his stories in the past two weeks.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/07/todd-starnes-of-fox-news-lies-again-a-texas-school-did-not-ban-christmas-trees-and-the-colors-red-green/

Tis The Season To Tell Big, Honking Lies: More 'War On Christmas' Calumny From The Far Right

Fox News and Glenn Beck's website "The Blaze" reported that a public school in Bulloch County, Ga., had banned Christmas cards. According to the Beck site, this was done because earlier this year Americans United had demanded that the school order teachers to "curtail religious expression while teaching."

The story was soon appearing on right-wing blogs and making a splash on social media. There was a big problem with it, however: It wasn't true.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/tis-the-season-to-tell-big-honking-lies-more-war-on-christmas-calumny-from

Survey | Americans Shift Preference for "Happy Holidays" over "Merry Christmas"

Nearly half (49%) of Americans agree stores and businesses should greet their customers with "happy holidays" or "season's greetings" instead of "merry Christmas" out of respect for people of different faiths. However,a substantial minority (43%) disagree.  Support for saying "happy holidays" or "season's greetings" is up slightly since December 2010, when 44% preferred that businesses use less religious greetings.

MORE: http://publicreligion.org/research/2013/12/prri-rns-dec-2013-survey/

See also...

Do You Believe? Americans Less Likely to Believe in Historical Accuracy of Christmas Story Than a Decade Ago

'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays'?

Fox News Busted For War On Christmas Hypocrisy

The Religious Right's Nightmare Before Christmas: Poll Finds Increasing Percentage Of Americans View Dec. 25 As A Secular Holiday

Maybe the "War on Christmas" was never about reminding people that "Jesus is the reason for the season." Maybe it was always about the "War FOR Christmas," because the Religious Right wants to define all facets of life in America, including the way holidays are observed.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/the-religious-right-s-nightmare-before-christmas-poll-finds-increasing

Christmas in America: Belief in the Virgin birth and visits from Santa

The survey finds that 73 percent of adults believe Jesus was born of a virgin -- the act of God at the theological heart of the Christmas story, the birth of the Christ child.

MORE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/christmas-in-america-belief-in-the-virgin-birth-and-visits-from-santa/2013/12/18/37758f46-67a4-11e3-997b-9213b17dac97_story.html

Researchers: One in every 200 U.S. women experienced a 'virgin pregnancy'

That is the eye-popping figure reported on Tuesday by US researchers who trawled through a long-term study into reproductive health among young Americans.


The Unbearable Whiteness of Being (Megyn Kelly): Jon Stewart Skewers Fox News' Caucasian Persuasion

In his inimitable way, Jon Stewart takes on Fox News' obsession with keeping Santa and Jesus as white as the driven snow.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/13/the-unbearable-whiteness-of-being-megyn-kelly-jon-stewart-skewers-fox-news-caucasian-persuasion/

See also...

O'Reilly Defends White Santa & War On Christmas Continues

The Dark Mastermind Behind The War On Christmas

Christians started the only "War on Christmas"

If you believe the pundits pushing the notion of a godless "War on Christmas," you might be shocked to learn that America's history of Christmas isn't especially Christian. In order to turn Christmas into the kind of historical rah-rah

Jesus festival many Christians would like to believe in, you have to do some very creative rewriting. But then, many of these folks are the same ones who will try to sell you on America's founding as a Christian nation. So... there's that.

MORE: http://www.examiner.com/article/christians-started-the-only-war-on-christmas-1?cid=db_articles

See also...

The Time Boston Banned Christmas

Flying Spaghetti Monster invades Wisconsin State Capitol

In a victory for Pastafarians everywhere, the Flying Spaghetti Monster has invaded the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda.

MORE: http://www.examiner.com/article/flying-spaghetti-monster-invades-wisconsin-state-capitol

See also...

Flying Spaghetti Monster joins crowded holiday display at Wisconsin State Capitol

Despite Jesus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and a Festivus Pole in Capitol, Florida Officials Say No to Satanists

The Florida State Capitol Building is currently home to a Nativity scene, Festivus Pole, three signs from atheist groups, and an homage to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/19/despite-jesus-the-flying-spaghetti-monster-and-a-festivus-pole-in-capitol-florida-officials-say-no-to-satanists/

See also...

Florida Capitol Building Now Houses Nativity Scene, Festivus Pole, Atheist Signs, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Yes, He Can!: Fla. Man Wins Space For Festivus Display At State Capitol

Oklahoma State Capitol Officials Call Moratorium on All Additional Monuments After Satanic Temple Opens Floodgates

You knew there would be problems when Oklahoma state officials approved a Ten Commandments monument outside the building in 2012.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/19/oklahoma-state-capitol-officials-call-moratorium-on-all-monuments/


Not to Be Outdone by the Satanists, Now a Hindu Group Wants a Monument at the Oklahoma Capitol

Hindus join Satanists demanding equal placement on Oklahoma capitol grounds

The Satanic Temple Wants to Place a Monument Outside Oklahoma's Capitol Building. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Christians open the door for Satanist monument in Oklahoma


Satanists take to Indiegogo to build giant monument to Satan on government property

Oklahoma State Representatives File 'Merry Christmas Bill'

Texas recently passed a similar bill. And the authors of House Bill 2317 say they plan to use the same platform of Texas' Merry Christmas bill.

MORE: http://www.news9.com/story/24176594/oklahoma-state-representatives-file-merry-christmas-bill

U.S. judge orders landmark California cross taken down

A massive cross that serves as part of a war memorial on a San Diego hilltop must be dismantled because it has been found to violate a constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion, a federal judge grudgingly ruled on Thursday.

MORE: http://news.msn.com/us/us-judge-orders-landmark-california-cross-taken-down

See also...

Cross Over?: Court Rules Calif. Sectarian Symbol On Government Land Must Come Down

South Carolina Air Force Base Removes Nativity Scene

Thanks to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the mythical War on Christmas has some soldiers helping out this year. Last week at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina, a nativity scene was taken down after complaints, just before the annual tree lighting.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/12/south-carolina-air-force-base-removes-nativity-scene/

Nativity scene at Guantanamo triggers controversy

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation received an email Monday night signed by 18 active-duty service members protesting the Nativity scenes set up at the Guantanamo's Gold Hill and Seaside galleys, according to foundation president Mikey Weinstein.

MORE: http://www.navytimes.com/article/20131217/NEWS/312170034/Nativity-scene-Guantanamo-triggers-controversy

Case Challenging Prayers, Chapel Use for Public School Graduation Continues in South Carolina

"Despite the decision of Judge Anderson to permit these religious practices to occur before a final adjudication of the merits, they are clearly violative of the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state," said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. "Previous federal court rulings have been clear on that point."

MORE: http://americanhumanist.org/news/details/2013-12-case-challenging-prayers-chapel-use-for-public-schoo

Why Is David Barton Lying and Saying Obama Didn't Mention God in His Thanksgiving Proclamation?

There are times where we post videos of pastors or conservative pundits saying ridiculous things and their defenders will say we're taking them out of context.

But when Christians lie so clearly, and the evidence is so conclusive, you really have to wonder how brainwashed their supporters are to just ignore the story.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/05/why-is-david-barton-lying-and-saying-obama-didnt-mention-god-in-his-thanksgiving-proclamation/

Senate Republicans Introduce Religious 'License to Discriminate' Bill

This week, 11 Senate Republicans introduced a bill called the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would prohibit federal agencies from taking away the tax-exempt status of churches and religious groups in spite of any discriminatory practices they may employ.


Equal Education: N.C. Christian School Rejects Vouchers After Discrimination Fight

Myrtle Grove Christian School had been approved to receive funds through the state's new "Opportunity Scholarship" program, but under its 'Biblical morality policy,' it refuses admission to LGBT students and even the straight children of LGBT parents.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/equal-education-nc-christian-school-rejects-vouchers-after-discrimination

See also...

Missed Opportunity: North Carolina's Voucher Program Likely To Fund Homeschools

Off Target: Ohio Public School District Wants Creationist Archers To Run Gym Classes

Lebanon City Schools (located in between Dayton and Cincinnati), invited a group called His Pins to teach archery with a side of proselytizing to its students during physical education classes.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/off-target-ohio-public-school-district-wants-creationist-archers-to-run-gym

Honest and dishonest bias

It's a clear violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause for public school officials to encourage students to pray in class or to participate in prayer activities with students during class. In an attempt to resolve the situation and avoid court action, the AHA sent a letter six months earlier that outlined why school-sponsored and school-promoted classroom prayers are unconstitutional. School officials ignored the letter.

MORE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/12/13/honest-and-dishonest-bias/

Bill aims to let praying, Jesus back in Ohio schools

A portrait of Jesus and prayer could return to public schools if two state representatives persuade fellow lawmakers to pass the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

MORE: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/12/04/1204-proposed-bill-would-protect-religious-freedom.html

Judge dismisses lawsuit over churches' use of public schools

A judge is dismissing a lawsuit claiming churches owe more than $5.6 million in rental fees to Hawaii schools.

But the judge is allowing Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State founder Mitchell Kahle and public advocate Holly Huber to amend and refile the lawsuit.

MORE: http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/20131219_Judge_dismisses_lawsuit_over_churches_use_of_public_schools.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Humanist Told He Can't Give Invocation at County Meeting because the 'Ministerial Association' Didn't Recommend Him

Just over a week ago, Joe Beck, founder of the Humanists of the Treasure Coast in Florida, asked if he could deliver the invocation at an upcoming meeting of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/12/humanist-told-he-cant-give-invocation-at-county-meeting-because-the-ministerial-association-didnt-recommend-him/

See also...

Request For Humanist Invocation Denied by Florida County Commissioners


5th Grader Told He Can't Take Part in Speech Contest Because His Essay Mentions the Harm Caused by Religion

5th grader Zachary Golob-Drake was supposed to deliver a speech to his fellow 4th and 5th grade classmates yesterday morning. It wasn't just any speech. It was a speech that was chosen to be the best in his class and Thursday morning was his chance to win a spot as one of the representatives to the regional 4-H Tropicana Public Speech contest.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/13/5th-grader-told-he-cant-take-part-in-speech-contest-because-his-essay-mentions-the-harm-caused-by-religion/


Censored Florida lad Zachary Golob-Drake delivers his 'inappropriate' speech -- and wins a gold medal

Gay High School Student Suspended for Ripped Bible Has Record Cleared

Smith, an African-American gay student at the school, states he was bullied by other students who repeatedly told him that "being gay is a sin" and "gays go to hell." In protest, Smith tore pages of Leviticus from a personal copy of the Bible and was sent to the assistant principal's office as a result. Smith reported the bullying and was asked to not tear any more pages from his Bible. Several days later, however, administrators suspended Smith for merely carrying the ripped Bible to school.

MORE: http://americanhumanist.org/news/details/2013-12-gay-high-school-student-suspended-for-ripped-bible-h

We Raised More Than $3,000 for the Morton Grove Park District and They Rejected It

This was never about anyone being unpatriotic; this was always about the right to exercise our freedoms, whether that means sitting or standing for the Pledge.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/03/we-raised-more-than-3000-for-the-morton-grove-park-district-and-they-rejected-it/

See also...

Yes, Salon, Atheists Do Help the Poor


Morton Grove Library trustees vote to reject athiest blogger's donation

Pocketful Of Problems: Group Providing Constitutions To Fla. Public School Students Believes Church-State Separation Doesn't Exist

National Center for Constitutional Studies founder Cleon Skousen argued that the Founding Fathers based America's legal system on the Bible and that the country was meant to mimic the tribes of ancient Israel.

MORE: https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/pocketful-of-problems-group-providing-constitutions-to-fla-public-school

Sacramento-area atheists launch 'Out of the Closet' billboard campaign

"There are lot of people who don’t have a belief in God. We're encouraging them to be comfortable during the holiday season. It's OK to not have a belief."

MORE: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/12/01/5961993/sacramento-area-atheists-launch.html#storylink=cpy

A Visual Representation of Sam Harris' 'Morality and the Christian God'

A month ago, Sam Harris posted on his website an audio excerpt from one of his debates. It's a popular excerpt, where he talks about the flimsy morality of God. Harris gave his readers permission to turn that excerpt into a video and Devon Tracey came through with this very nice visual representation of a powerful speech.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/01/a-visual-representation-of-sam-harris-morality-and-the-christian-god/

Minnesota Archdiocese Reveals Names Of 30 Priests Accused Of Abusing Minors

Child sex abuse litigation has cost the U.S. Catholic Church some $3 billion in settlements in the two decades since the ongoing scandal erupted with a series of molestation cases uncovered in Boston in 1992.

MORE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/minnesota-archdiocese-priest-abuse_n_4393192.html

The Homeschool Apostates

They were raised to carry the fundamentalist banner forward and redeem America. But now the Joshua Generation is rebelling.

MORE: http://prospect.org/article/homeschool-apostates

Kidnapped For Christ

The shocking stories of American teenagers who were shipped to an American-run Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic.

MORE: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kateslogan/kidnapped-for-christ

Drawing Them In: Is Religion Becoming a More Prominent Theme in Comic Books?

Apparently, God is increasingly stoked about working His magic through comic books.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/11/30/drawing-them-in-is-religion-becoming-a-more-prominent-theme-in-comic-books/

N.M. high court legalizes same-sex marriage

New Mexico joins 16 states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage.

MORE: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nm-high-court-legalizes-same-sex-marriage/

Pa. pastor defrocked after performing same-sex wedding

United Methodist church officials on Thursday defrocked a pastor from central Pennsylvania who officiated his son's same-sex wedding in Massachusetts, a move seen as contradictory to the denomination's beliefs.

MORE: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pa-pastor-defrocked-after-performing-same-sex-wedding/

High Schoolers Staged A Massive Sit-In After Their Vice Principal Was Ousted Over Same-Sex Marriage

Hundreds of students from Eastside Catholic High School gathered today in solidarity after their vice principal was forced to resign.

MORE: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/high-schoolers-staged-a-massive-sit-in-after-their-vice-prin

School districts plan for transgender student law to go into effect

Transgender students will be allowed to choose which restroom they want to use and which sports team they join, depending on with which gender they identify.

MORE: http://www.news10.net/news/local/article/266297/2/School-districts-plan-for-transgender-student-law-to-go-into-effect-?hpt=us_bn10

Creationist Ken Ham Criticizes Atheists for Reading the Bible Too Critically

Creationist Ken Ham is really upset at atheists who are going to "extreme lengths" to… um… read the Bible.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/11/30/creationist-ken-ham-criticizes-atheists-for-reading-the-bible-too-critically/

Kentucky's Faltering Ark Theme Park to Be Shored Up With $62,000,000 in Junk Bonds Issued By Nearby Town

It's a public secret that the (Noah's) Ark Encounter, a planned 800-acre theme park in Kentucky that is a twin to the Creation Museum, is having financial difficulties.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/11/30/kentuckys-faltering-ark-theme-park-to-be-shored-up-with-62000000-in-junk-bonds-issued-by-nearby-town/

See also...

Noah's Extremely Bad Animal Husbandry Advice

Creationists and Climate Skeptics Unite

Watch politicians say there's no such thing as climate change because of God.

MORE: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/climate_desk/2013/12/creationists_and_climate_change_political_union_of_science_critics.html

Neanderthal Genome Shows Early Human Interbreeding, Inbreeding

The most complete sequence to date of the Neanderthal genome, using DNA extracted from a woman's toe bone that dates back 50,000 years, reveals a long history of interbreeding among at least four different types of early humans living in Europe and Asia at that time, according to University of California, Berkeley, scientists.

MORE: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131218133658.htm

See also...

Neanderthals Buried Their Dead, New Research of Remains Concludes


Discovery of 1.4 Million-Year-Old Fossil Human Hand Bone Closes Human Evolution Gap

Smarter People Have More Sex, Do More Drugs And Stay Up Later Because It's The Smarter Thing To Do

A new study has found that smarter people not only tend to stay up later, but also regularly engage in recreational sex and drug use.

MORE: http://elitedaily.com/news/world/smarter-people-sex-drugs-stay-later-smarter-thing/

Poverty Influences Children's Early Brain Development

Poverty may have direct implications for important, early steps in the development of the brain, saddling children of low-income families with slower rates of growth in two key brain structures, according to researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

MORE: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211183752.htm

See also...

Spanking Children Slows Cognitive Development and Increases Risk of Criminal Behavior, Expert Says

Evolution of 'Third Party Punishment'

The study, "High strength-of-ties and low mobility enable the evolution of third-party punishment," suggests that the stronger a community's social ties and the longer most people stay within the community, the more likely it is that otherwise uninvolved third parties will step forward to punish their neighbors.

MORE: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131210193136.htm

Natural Disaster Relief: How Does Psychological Distance Affect Donations?

In one study, consumers donated less for hurricane relief when they were focused on the distant future, compared to when they were focused on the (psychologically closer) near future. Distance reduced giving because people feel less emotional concern for what happens later compared to what is going on right now. Importantly, however, consumers gave more when they thought about donating in an abstract way, compared to a concrete way. Abstract thinking increased giving because it makes the idea of donating feel more pleasant.

MORE: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131210120723.htm

Heads or Tails? Random Fluctuations in Brain Cell Activity May Determine Toss-Up Decisions

Padoa-Schioppa then examined how different groups of cells determine decisions between options of equal value. He showed that toss-up decisions seemed to depend on changes in the initial state of the network of neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex.

"The fluctuations in the network took place before the primates were even offered a choice of juices, but they seem to somehow bias the decision," Padoa-Schioppa said. "Neuronal signals are always noisy. In essence, close-call decisions are partly determined by random noise."

MORE: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131205091904.htm

Brain Connectivity Study Reveals Striking Differences Between Men and Women

In one of the largest studies looking at the "connectomes" of the sexes, Ragini Verma, PhD, an associate professor in the department of Radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues found greater neural connectivity from front to back and within one hemisphere in males, suggesting their brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action. In contrast, in females, the wiring goes between the left and right hemispheres, suggesting that they facilitate communication between the analytical and intuition.

MORE: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202161935.htm

John Lennon, 9 others honored with Mercury craters

It's not Lennon's first celestial honor. On Oct. 9, 2009, the International Lunar Geographic Society announced that a crater on the moon had been renamed to honor the late Beatles star on his birthday. The crater, located in the moon's Lacus Somniorum ("Lake of Dreams") district, was given the designation the John Lennon Peace Crater.

MORE: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/john-lennon-9-others-honored-mercury-craters-2D11779434

Simulations back up theory that Universe is a hologram

A ten-dimensional theory of gravity makes the same predictions as standard quantum physics in fewer dimensions.

MORE: http://www.nature.com/news/simulations-back-up-theory-that-universe-is-a-hologram-1.14328

See also...

Recipe for a Universe: Apply Heat and Stir

Collapse of the Universe Is Closer Than Ever Before

You Can't Get Entangled Without a Wormhole: Physicist Finds Entanglement Instantly Gives Rise to a Wormhole


Most Detailed Catalog of Galaxies Traces Evolution of the Universe During Last 10,000 Million Years

Gaia space telescope's billion pixel camera to map Milky Way

Northern Ireland Gives Gay Couples an Early Christmas Present

Northern Ireland has lifted its ban on gay couples adopting, a massive step toward equality that could also help in Northern Ireland's marriage equality fight.

MORE: http://www.care2.com/causes/northern-ireland-gives-gay-couples-an-early-christmas-present.html#ixzz2nyElscr6

Australian Court Strikes Down Marriage Equality in a 'Lost Opportunity,' Says Atheist Group

Twenty-seven newlywed couples in Australia will have their marriages annulled just days after tying the knot, thanks to a recent decision by Australia's High Court.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/13/australian-court-strikes-down-marriage-equality-in-a-lost-opportunity-says-atheist-group/

Croatia rejects gay marriage in referendum

Passions ran high in Croatia ahead of the vote, with the Church-backed "yes" camp citing the defence of traditional family values and their opponents accusing them of discrimination against gays.


New Zealand Census Results Show That At Least 39% of the Country Profess 'No Religion'

According to newly-released census results, New Zealand is becoming even more non-religious that anyone thought.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/10/new-zealand-census-results-show-that-at-least-39-of-the-country-profess-no-religion/

Catholic Church crumbling in the Netherlands

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Willem Jacobus E?k Cardinal, Archbishop of Utrecht and chairman of the Dutch bishops' conference, said that the Catholic Church in the Netherlands is facing a near collapse.

MORE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/2013/12/catholic-church-crumbling-in-the-netherlands/

Angels have no wings, says Catholic 'angelologist'

Angels exist but do not have wings and are more like shards of light, at least according to a top Catholic Church "angelologist" who says the heavenly beings are now back in vogue thanks to New Age religions.

MORE: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/20/angels-have-no-wings-says-catholic-angelologist/

Controversy racks Vatican Church

Frescos of female priests have been discovered in the catacombs of the Vatican.

MORE: http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/video/watch/20093076/controversy-racks-vatican-church/

'Infidel Santa' killed in Tajikistan

A young man dressed up as Father Frost, the Russian counterpart of Santa Claus, has been brutally killed in Tajikistan. The assailants reportedly shouted "infidel" as they stabbed him to death.

MORE: http://rt.com/news/infidel-santa-killed-tajikistan-133/

Ugandan MPs pass life in jail anti-homosexual law

Uganda's parliament has passed a bill to toughen the punishment for homosexual acts to include life imprisonment in some cases.

MORE: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25463942

Group: Nearly 1,000 killed over 2 days in Central African Republic

Former rebels in the Central African Republic killed almost 1,000 in a two-day rampage earlier this month, Amnesty International said, as together with Human Rights Watch it warned of a surge in sectarian violence.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/18/world/africa/car-violence/index.html?hpt=wo_c2

See also...

Religious violence in CAR plagues 'most abandoned people on earth'

Mass killings largely ignored in 2 Nigerian states, rights group says

Horrific ethnic and religious violence resulting in "mass murder" and other abuses in two central Nigerian states has largely gone ignored by the authorities, rights group Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/12/world/africa/nigeria-rights-report/index.html

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Islamist militants attack base in Nigeria

Car bomb kills Somali lawmaker outside presidential palace

Al-Shabaab... hopes to topple the leadership and turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamist state.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/06/world/africa/somalia-violence/index.html

See also...

7 killed in car bomb attack on military convoy in Somalia

Islamic militants are hijacking Syrian rebel movement

TRIPOLI, Lebanon -- The human rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that Syrians fighting to overthrow dictator Bashar Assad are confronting a new kind of tyranny -- this time, from Islamic militants who have pushed out moderates among the rebel fights.

MORE: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/islamic-militants-are-hijacking-syrian-rebel-movement/

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Syria: Front line battles take Damascus suburbs back to 'stone age'

Militants attack hospital at Yemen's Defense Ministry, killing 52

Yemen is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, believed by many analysts to be the most dangerous affiliate of the terror network.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/05/world/meast/yemen-violence/index.html

Attacks across Baghdad and northern Iraq kill 70

More than 8,000 people have been killed in Iraq in 2013, according to U.N. figures.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/16/world/meast/iraq-violence/index.html

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String of suicide blasts kills pilgrims in Iraq

16 killed in Baghdad violence

12 bombs rock Baghdad

4 killed in Afghanistan suicide bombing

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN.

MORE: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/02/world/asia/afghanistan-violence/index.html