A growing number of people, millions worldwide, say they believe that life definitively ends at death – that there is no God, no afterlife and no divine plan. And it’s an outlook that could be gaining momentum – despite its lack of cheer. In some countries, openly acknowledged atheism has never been more popular.
“There’s absolutely more atheists around today than ever before, both in sheer numbers and as a percentage of humanity,” says Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and author of Living the Secular Life. According to a Gallup International survey of more than 50,000 people in 57 countries, the number of individuals claiming to be religious fell from 77% to 68% between 2005 and 2011, while those who self-identified as atheist rose by 3% – bringing the world’s estimated proportion of adamant non-believers to 13%.
Irish officials are sparking a new round of controversy over the country’s harsh anti-abortion laws, insisting on keeping a brain-dead woman hooked up to life support against her family’s wishes because she’s pregnant. According to the Irish Independent, the woman was declared clinically brain dead after suffering head trauma and a blood clot. Medical experts consider brain-dead individuals to be deceased, even though they can continue breathing if they’re hooked up to life support. The Irish woman’s family reportedly want her to be removed from the machines so they can bury her. But the doctors in the Irish hospital haven’t yet followed through, according to the Guardian, because they’re worried that might violate the country’s harsh abortion ban.
A Kansas mother has been charged with the chilling death of her 10-year-old son, who she allegedly stabbed to death while he was sleeping because she thought he would be better off in heaven.
In a Sunday night 911 call to Wellington police, 33-year-old Lindsey Nicole Blansett explained to dispatchers that she had just killed her son.
“Hi, this is Nicole Blansett. I just stabbed my son,” she told 911 the operator, adding that she had stabbed him “in the chest, several times.”
“God what did I (expletive) do?” Blansett said. “I’m never going to get out of jail, never… I’m going to have to live with that. Oh God, why, why? Because I thought I was saving him from the pain that was coming.”
According to a criminal complaint filed by Sumner County Attorney Kerwin Spencer, Blansett “decided his life would be full of suffering and pain and that it would be better for him to go to heaven tonight.”
A teenage girl hanged herself because she feared telling her devoutly Christian parents she might be gay, an inquest has heard. Elizabeth Lowe, 14, known as Lizzie, had confided in friends that she thought she might be a lesbian, but was struggling to reconcile her feelings with her own deep faith. She was also worried about telling her parents, but her father said her fears were misplaced and she would have received a “wealth of love and acceptance”. The schoolgirl from Didsbury in Manchester sparked concern when she sent a text to a friend on the evening of September 10, which ended with the words, “….stay strong. I am sorry”. The friend told her mother who alerted the police, but tragically Lizzie was found hanged in a local park.
hen gunmen from the Pakistani Taliban stormed an army-run school in Peshawar on Tuesday and killed 145 people, including 132 children, they had two aims: to inflict maximal suffering on the people, and to remind political leaders that the Taliban would not stop shooting and bombing until the Pakistani government was overthrown and a purist Islamic regime was put in its place. The scenes from Peshawar are just the latest example of Pakistan's descent into terrorism and sectarian violence—all despite recent elections, billions of aid dollars, and millions of young Pakistanis' hunger for change.
But the country’s problem goes deeper than the Taliban. There is political and religious space in Pakistan for groups like the Taliban to operate unharmed, the result of decades of government financing and exporting of terrorism abroad and aggressive Islamization at home. The country’s moment of reckoning has arrived, and both the political and religious establishment will now need to confront the conditions that allowed the Taliban to enter a school and murder children.
This is the advert that someone I know took out in the newspaper, The South Bend Tribune,which is in South Bend, Indiana. It is the home of Notre Dame University, a Catholic stronghold.
It has certainly been well received by local skeptics, though it is a shame that no Catholics from the University have so far reacted. It is good to see atheist activism takes on many guises. Changing people’s minds can be horses for courses.
The Catholic Church in Australia on Friday said that obligatory celibacy may have contributed to priests abusing children, and recommended that clergy should be given “psychosexual” training.
In a landmark report, an Australian Catholic Church body dealing with the legacy of child sex abuse added that some church institutions and their leaders turned a blind eye to what was going on for years.
“Obligatory celibacy may also have contributed to abuse in some circumstances,” the Truth, Justice and Healing Council said.
Americans seem confident in the mythical notion that the United States is a free nation dedicated to reproducing the principles of equality, justice and democracy. What has been ignored in this delusional view is the growing rise of an expanded national security state since 2001 and an attack on individual rights that suggests that the United States has more in common with authoritarian regimes like China and Iran "than anyone may like to admit." I want to address this seemingly untenable notion that the United States has become a breeding ground for authoritarianism by focusing on four fundamentalisms: market fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, educational fundamentalism and military fundamentalism. This is far from a exhaustive list, but it does raise serious questions about how the claim to democracy in the United States has been severely damaged, if not made impossible.
Last Friday, Larry McQuilliams was shot and killed by police after embarking on a campaign of violence across Austin, Texas, firing more than 100 rounds in the downtown area before making a failed attempt to burn down the Mexican Consulate. The only casualty was McQuilliams himself, who was felled by officers when he entered police headquarters, but the death toll could have been far greater: McQuilliams, who was called a “terrorist” by Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, had several weapons, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and a map pinpointing 34 downtown buildings as possible targets — including several churches. While the impetus for McQuilliams’ onslaught remains unclear, local authorities recently announced that he may have been motivated by religion — but not the one you might think. According to the Associated Press, police officers who searched McQuilliams’ van found a copy of “Vigilantes of Christendom,” a book connected with the Phineas Priesthood, an American white supremacist movement that claims Christian inspiration and opposes interracial intercourse, racial integration, homosexuality, and abortion.
I usually don’t think it’s worth beating up on the purveyors of popular evangelical feel-goodism, for the same reason I don’t get in boxing matches with life-size Jell-O sculptures. But I had to make an exception for this tweet from human tooth-whitening strip Joel Osteen: "The facts may tell you one thing. But, God is not limited by the facts. Choose faith in spite of the facts." Osteen is most famous for his surgically implanted smile and his prosperity-gospel theology which teaches that Jesus is a jolly, rosy-cheeked Santa Claus who’s eager to shower you with wealth, happiness and worldly success, if you only ask.
Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists. Believers, who uphold the implausible and more easily-dismissed “Christ of Faith” (the divine Jesus who walked on water), ought not to get involved.
Numerous secular scholars have presented their own versions of the so-called “Historical Jesus” – and most of them are, as biblical scholar J.D. Crossan puts it, “an academic embarrassment.” From Crossan’s view of Jesus as the wise sage, to Robert Eisenman’s Jesus the revolutionary, andBart Ehrman’s apocalyptic prophet, about the only thing New Testament scholars seem to agree on is Jesus’ historical existence. But can even that be questioned?
Neuroscientist Sam Harris had some harsh words for one of the nation’s top scientists during a recent podcast.
The outspoken atheist said that Francis Collins, the current head of the National Institute of Health and the former director of the international Human Genome Project, was an example of an intelligent person who peddled religious “bullshit.”
Harris started off by saying that many “otherwise well-behaved” and reasonable individuals held extreme religious views.
“There are people who have really been terrorized by their parents, and people who terrorize their kids with a fear of hell, for instance. I hear from people who their entire life — they’re in their 40s and they’re only now just coming out of the prison of having spent their entire lives being afraid of being tortured (for) an eternity by Satan. This is in the 21st century, in the United States.”
“We are good,” Donald Pfaff declares early on in The Altruistic Brain. By this he means that all humans are innately moral, not in a philosophical/religious sense, but as a matter of objective science. “[T]he human brain is wired for goodwill,” he argues, “which propels us toward empathic displays of altruism.” The human brain is altruistic, and altruism is good; therefore humans are good. It’s a neat syllogism—but, unfortunately, reducing moral questions to syllogisms doesn’t work as well as Pfaff wants it to.
This is not to denigrate neuroscience, nor to dismiss Pfaff’s insights altogether. The book is most useful as a scientific refutation of the idea that human beings are innately selfish or innately cruel. Pfaff musters a great deal of evidence to show that the Christian notion of original sin—and the capitalist notion of human self-interest as a sole motivating force—are both unsustainable, at least in their more simplistic forms.
Right from the start, the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, D.C., set the tone that was to dominate the rest of the day. As the crowd was filtering in to the National Mall, a band fired up the crowd with a rousing song that lampooned the belief in “Jesus coming again,” mixing it with sexual innuendo. As the assembled crowd clapped and sang along to other songs satirizing religion, a large costumed puppet figure of Jesus danced among spectators. “We’re not here to bash anyone’s faith, but if it happens, it happens,” comedian and master of ceremonies Paul Provenza announced to laughter and applause at the outset of the event. The bashing and attacks on religion, mainly Christianity (in its evangelical and Catholic forms), happened as much if not more than positive portrayals of secularism and were in sync with new atheist leader and scientist Richard Dawkins’s advice to “mock and ridicule” people’s beliefs. When one of the authors asked an official from the Secular Students Alliance, a group prominent in organizing the event, about whether the ridiculing of religion was productive, he answered, “This is what we do.”
Atheist families don't believe in God, so who are they thanking on Thanksgiving? How do they celebrate? Do they give thanks at all? What if you have atheist Thanksgiving guests? How do you accommodate them? What about the kids? What will happen to them? Should you be worried that they don't know the "true" meaning of Thanksgiving? Here's some information that might surprise you.
Oregon man and a woman are suing Jehovah’s Witnesses for allegedly concealing the existence of sexual abuse among members of its congregations, The Oregonian reports.
According to Irwin Zalkin, the lawyer for Velicia Alston and an unnamed victim, John Roe, the Jehovah’s Witness organization is “more concerned about protecting its reputation than it is about protecting its children,” as evidenced by the fact that when sexual predators are discovered in their midst, they do not report them to the police.
Members of the clergy are considered to be mandatory reporters of child abuse by Oregon law, but according to Zalkin, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Governing Body deems allegations of child abuse to be privileged religious communications. Moreover, they have a policy in place requiring that the accused abuser confess and two eyewitnesses to the abuse testify before they will take any action.
For a quarter century, I have investigated and attempted to explain anomalous events that people report experiencing. I have written about a few of my own, such as being abducted by aliens (caused by extreme fatigue and sleep deprivation), hallucinating inside a sensory deprivation tank, and having an out-of-body experience while my temporal lobes were stimulated with electromagnetic fields. Most people interpret such experiences as evidence for the supernatural, the afterlife, or even God, but since mine all had clear and obvious natural explanations, few readers took them to be evidentiary. In my October 2014 column in Scientific American titled “Infrequencies,” however, I wrote about an anomalous experience for which I have no explanation.
aptist pastor in Tempe, Arizona called for the mass extermination of LGBT people on Sunday in a sermon entitled “AIDS: The Judgement of God.”
In the sermon, which was uploaded to YouTube on Monday from Faithful Word Baptist Church, Pastor Steven Anderson said that God has ordered in the scriptures that gays should be killed, and that if humanity wants to have an “AIDS-free world by Christmas,” he said, that’s what should be done.
“Turn to Leviticus 20:13,” he says in the video, “because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS.”