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Spreading Secularism in the Second City

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Welcome!  You'll find here a collection of the day's best information, news, and entertainment from all sides of the table, both locally and international, to keep Chicagoland freethinkers abreast of the irreverent events, secular meetups, and humanist happenings around the world.

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Dawkins Mocks Sir Anthony Kenny (Agnostic) In Public

Posted on September 21, 2012 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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Atheists Beat the Illinois Family Institute At Their Own Game

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Alright. Spill it. Which of you naughty atheists used a Christian group’s faux grassroots-anger email system to send letters of support to schools that brought in Jessica Ahlquist to speak to the students?

Because Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute is ever-so-pissed about it:

Today, an unusual number of atheists from around the country have used our Take Action system to voice their support to those schools that invited teen atheist Jessica Ahlquist to speak on constitutional issues. Since our typical audience is not composed of atheists, I suspected Hemant Mehta, the “Friendly Atheist,” and [high school] math teacher might be behind their efforts. Surprise, surprise, Mehta has posted yet another piece that misses, obscures, or twists the central points of my article.

*Hemant bows*



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In God We Trust: A Brief History

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

We pay attention to the news, so it follows that we pay attention to politics. After all, being involved is one of the original tenants of democracy. When the news (especially politics in the news) touches on numismatics, it piques in us a strong, stubborn, contrary curiosity that won’t go away until we do the research and figure out just what part of it they got wrong. It’s too bad libraries don’t give out gold cards.

 

So on that note…

 

Mitt Romney took to the stump in our home state of Virginia on Saturday, September 8th, in an effort to claim its 13 electoral votes come November. Virginia, which went to President Barack Obama in 2008, is again considered a battleground state. In his remarks to a friendly Virginia Beach crowd, he accused the incumbent President and the Democratic party of wanting to, among other things, “take God off our coins”.[



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Atheists convince U of Tennessee to ban pregame prayers - controversy somehow ensues

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I prayed they would do that! Actually I had no idea this was happening. But in case you missed it, the University of Tennessee last week banned the traditional pregame prayer at Neyland Stadium prior to football games. The move came in response to various complaints — the latest in the form of a letter sent to the university by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which stated that a fan complained to them about the prayer.

 

The foundation says the pastor often times references Jesus, which the foundation claims doesn’t belong at a public university. Their main argument is that the prayer violates the constitution.


So, prayers out. As noted by Fark.com: well, there goes any chance the Vols had of beating Alabama.



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Atheists Celebrate 'Constitution Day' With Ad Arguing Constitution Was Victory for Secularists

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

An atheist organization celebrated "Constitution Day" on Monday by posting a paid advertisement claiming that the Constitution was a major victory for secular rights.


The Freedom From Religion Foundation chapter in Albuquerque, N.M., placed the ad in the Albuquerque Journal to commemorate the ratification of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.


"In Reason We Trust, because trusting in any god is very risky, and Congress could debate 'God's laws' all day long instead of protecting American's freedoms and prosperity. Good leaders will use reason and compromise to take us forward, not backward to the Dark Ages," the atheist declaration states.

 



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Controversy Over Atheist Speaker at York Reaches Wide Audience

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

What started as muted frustration among some parents of York High School government students over the choice of a speaker for Constitution Week is now a multi-pronged debate—in some cases heated—between educators, parents, atheists and the Illinois Family Institute.

 

Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst selected this year's speaker for Constitution Week, as they have for the past two years.

 

"The CAC does the legwork as far as finding and selecting speakers and we make ourselves available that week for the person to come to our school," said Charles Ovando, Research and Social Sciences Division chairman at York.

 

The speaker this year, 17-year-old Jessica Ahlquist, is an atheist from Rhode Island who filed a federal lawsuit to force her high school to remove a religious banner that had hung in the school's gymnasium for 49 years.



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Atheist fanatics, the al-Qaeda of the internet

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Insult Muhammad, the extremists loot. pillage, maim and kill. Mention God, in any way, shape or form and the Afans toss freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to have any differing belief system to their right out the window.

 

Let me quickly clarify: There is a big difference between and Atheist and an 'Afan' (Atheist fanatic).

 

The Afan is an extremist, comparable to any extremist in any belief system. And, like all extremists, they have a zero tolerance level for anyone differing from their point of view.



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Obama campaign expands faith effort

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

President Barack Obama's campaign is continuing its push for people of faith to cast a November ballot in their favor. On Monday they unveiled a "People of Faith for Obama" a new initiative to mobilize voters that included Web video of the president and a faith platform.

 

In the video candidate Obama makes the case that his faith plays a major role in his decision-making process. He says when hearing stories of faith from Americans he is touched, “They reinforce the power of my Christian faith which has guided me through my presidency and in my life, as a husband, as a father, and as a president.”

 

The president also made specific reference to the issue of religious liberty. “In a changing world, my commitment to religious liberty, is and always will be unwavering,” he said.



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Brandon Flowers of 'The Killers' Defends Mormon Faith Against Richard Dawkins

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Musician Brandon Flowers of the rock band "The Killers" had an unexpected and tense conversation about his Mormon faith with famed atheist Richard Dawkins on the Swedish talk show "Skavlan" in early September.


The host of the talk show, Fredrik Skavlan, asked Flowers, a devout Mormon, to describe the "beauty of [his] faith."


Flowers responded positively to Skavlan's request, saying that some of the things he loves about his Mormon faith are "my mother teaching me to pray, and that I have that communication with my heavenly Father. That's something I turn to on a daily basis."


"There are answers to questions that my church has that also are very...it's a beautiful thing to me, and I'm happy," the musician added.


 


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Mitt's Magical Mormon Undies: Penn Jillette's Rant Redux

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

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Islam: Salman Rushie Gets A Price Bump

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

It seems even the "Religion of Peace" (which commands Muslims to slaughter any Muslim or "infidel" who insults Mohammed) is affected by inflation.

 

The Iranian foundation (!) -- to quote Nick Gillespie -- that manages the fatwa against Rushdie has recently upped its reward for the murder of the "Satanic Verses" author by $500,000.



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Richard Dawkins BHA Award Acceptance Speech 2012

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (0)

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks on muslims converting to Christianity

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

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Chief Rabbi slams atheist Richard Dawkins for 'anti-semitic' remarks

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Noted biologist and author Richard Dawkins may be the world's best-known atheist, but in one rabbi's books, he's guilty of anti-semitic stereotyping for what he wrote in a book of his own, his best-seller, The God Delusion. And this is not the opinion of just any rabbi, but of Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth in the U.K.

 

The accusation was made Wednesday during a discussion between the two at the BBC's Re:Think religion festival in Salford. Lord Sacks took umbruge at a passage in The God Delusion where Dawkins describes the deity as the “most unpleasant character in all fiction... jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully". According to Sacks, this way of interpreting the Bible perpetuates a centuries-old kind of anti-semitism used against Jews by Christians. This, he said, made Dawkins a "Christian atheist" as opposed to a "Jewish atheist" or, one supposes, a plain old atheist-atheist.



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Eric's in a pickle with the National Secular Society

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

An article by Eric Pickles in Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph afforded him the opportunity to revel in the canting sub-Dickensian persona that we have all come to know, but not necessarily to love. The object of his ire on this occasion, inexplicably (from a rational perspective) has not been, for example, the group of people who recently issued death threats against Tom Holland for his documentary ‘Islam: The Untold Story’, but the National Secular Society and the “aggressive secularism” that he claims it embodies. When did you last hear or read a news story about “aggressive” secularists threatening to kill or maim someone because they happened to disagree with their perspective, or to back up objections to an historical documentary with threats of violence? Secularists campaign both for freedom of religion and, even more importantly, the right to freedom from it; beyond that, their political beliefs are disparate.

 

Warsi and Pickles “do God” (or Allah in the case of the former), which is a great pity; for we would all benefit from rather less faith, and more scepticism. Pickles opens his piece with a specific appeal to what he perceives to be the merits of Christianity and its role in shaping “the heritage, morality and public life of Britain”, claiming that it is “the Christian ethos has made Britain so welcoming”. He echoed with approval David Cameron’s assertion that “we are a Christian nation – and should not be afraid to say so”; all very flattering, if you happen to be a Christian that is.



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Atheism is its own religion

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

It was with some shaking of my head that I read Michael Polito’s letter regarding religion as an “outdated myth.” The only myths I keep reading are those constantly attributed as reason by atheists. It’s sad to see that people who supposedly live by reason can only spout belittling statements regarding religion and such. That just proves to me atheists are the most nonsensical people on Earth.

 

The generalizations Polito uses in his letter are not to be seen as actions taken by all Christians. There are many Christians who do not protest when confronted or questioned regarding religious dogma but are willing to discuss. However, that’s “pushing the religion down the throat,” the atheist would cry — not wanting to engage in debate. The assumption made only shows the rule of “assume” — reflecting only on yourself and not me.

 

The largest delusion I see is atheism, the religion of people who claim no spirituality or belief in any god or God. And yes — it’s a religion, because atheism bears a creed, practices of denial, factions within its body, etc. They may laugh at the notion, but they only laugh at themselves.




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From a wheelchair-bound perspective, thank God I'm an atheist

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

WHY do people turn to religion, if not to help them with their troubles? Most people believe the logical thing to do when presented with a tumultuous life-changing event is to turn to God. I feel like I bucked the trend in a major way.


When I was 12, I was diagnosed with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. The prognosis for this involves the gradual weakening of all muscles below the neck, rendering the sufferer unable to do everyday activities such as walking, lifting things and driving.


At 21, I'm in a wheelchair with limited use and strength of my arms and legs, but only time can tell how much worse it will get. When I was young, I noticed I was very clumsy and not as strong as other kids, but simply thought I just wasn't destined to be a sports star. The symptoms involved falling over a lot, running strangely, and having slower reflexes. It will come as no surprise that I was teased and bullied a lot.

 

 

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In Egypt, Christian man attacked by mob, arrested for being atheist

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

An angry mob of Egyptians gathered around a Christian man’s home on Thursday evening, attacking the building and demanding the man be put to death for his beliefs. Police arrived as the mob grew in size, but instead of dispersing the crowd, the Christian man, Alber Saber, was subsequently arrested.

 

His charge? He was accused of being an atheist. The mob also accused him of disseminating the anti-Islam “film” that has created massive unrest among Muslims in the Islamic world.

 

Saber has since been held by police pending an investigation. An online Facebook page in solidarity with the man has been created and accuses the police of torturing him during initial interrogations.



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A Woman's Place? The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The underrepresentation of women in the expanding American secular movement is an uncomfortable issue for many secularists and atheists. Many deny that there is a “woman problem” in organizations dedicated to the promotion of secular values. As an author who speaks about secularism—specifically, America’s secular history—to many different kinds of audiences, I can assure you that there is a problem.


When I speak before non-college audiences—that is, audiences in which no one is required to be there to get credit for a college course—75 percent of the people in the seats are men. The good news is that this is a significant improvement over the situation that prevailed eight years ago, when my book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism was published; at that time, my audiences were about 90 percent male. The bad news is that the gender gap in this movement remains as large as it is, although it’s less striking among people under thirty. The question is why.


The first and most obvious reason is that women, in the United States and every other country, are more religious and more devout in the practice of their religion than men. Public opinion polls show that this disparity affects every income, educational, and racial group—although it is much narrower among the highly educated than among the uneducated and the young than the old. African-American women, regardless of their level of education, are the most religious demographic in this country. This fact alone tells us that education is not the decisive factor, because although black women as a group are better educated than black men, black men are less religious. Space doesn’t permit a lengthy analysis of why women are more religious than men, so I’ll simply say that the greater religiosity of women means that both secular humanism and atheism are tougher sells to women.



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Religious unrest, violence and intolerance

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The killing of a U.S. ambassador in Libya by armed men has become political fodder for Mitt Romney to attack President Obama in an attempt to blame the President for the actions of Islamist reactionaries, perhaps terrorists. All the facts haven’t been sorted out and may never be. What we do know is that religious-based violence and intolerance is nothing new, whether in this country or elsewhere.

 

I was uncomfortable with Sam Harris’s book The End of Faith when it was released eight years ago. I spoke out against his using so-called holy books, the Koran and the Bible, to define Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Few people follow literally all of the precepts, examples, and teachings found in either book. But Harris used the words of the books to paint those religions as both absurd and dangerous. I certainly agree that some of the adherents of all three of those religions are dangerous, and I find their supernatural beliefs beyond reason, but that is no cause to paint them all with the same brush, as Harris does.

 

We know that there are many variations of belief among Muslims and among Christians. The World Christian Encyclopedia reports that there are 34,000 separate Christian groups around the globe. There may be as many variations among Muslims, as well. Many such variations arise from disagreements about the meaning of portions of the holy books, from personality differences among adherents, from cultural preferences, and for a multitude of other reasons.



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