Atheism and religion in the news XXII
And here it is yet again, sorry about the vacation, but I kinda was on vacation . That's my story anyway. On to the news.
Premier orders Lord's Prayer review
A story from my area.
Premier Dalton McGuinty wants to end the daily recital of the Lord's Prayer in the Legislature in what opposition parties are calling a bid to heal wounds from a divisive provincial election fought over religious schools.
McGuinty, whose Liberals were re-elected Oct. 10 partly by defending public funding of Catholic schools while attacking a Progressive Conservative scheme to extend it to other faith-based schools, made the surprise announcement yesterday.
"It's time for us to ensure that we have a prayer that better reflects our diversity," said the premier, who is Catholic.
"The members of the Ontario Legislature reflect the diversity of Ontario - be it Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or agnostic. It is time for our practices to do the same. That is the Ontario way," he wrote in a letter to the other party leaders.
University of Oxford to study why people have religion
They don't mention which god though.
The University of Oxford is to undertake a $4 million study to examine what it is that makes people believe in God.
The three-year study, to be carried out by the university's Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, will bring together anthropologists, theologians, philosophers and other academics to answer the age-old question as to whether belief in a Supreme Being is an inherent part of mankind's makeup.
Justin Barrett, a psychologist and leading member of the research team, said to the Church of England Newspaper that he believed there is strong evidence that belief in God is a natural thing in humans. "We are interested in exploring exactly in what sense belief in God is natural," he said. "We think there is more on the nature side than a lot of people suppose."
LIBERAL RELIGION AND ABRAHAM LINCOLN
An author discusses what he has found out about a former presidents religious beliefs
In 1976, as a way of celebrating our nation's bicentennial, I published an article on the religious views of Thomas Paine, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. I was inspired to write this piece when I heard on the radio that someone had called Thomas Paine "a dirty little atheist."
I've always wanted to continue my research on the religion of the presidents, and with this column on Abraham Lincoln's religion, I'll get a head start on the bicentennial of his birth next year.
Just like Washington, Lincoln never mentions the name of Christ in his writings, and he also followed the first president in a preference to seeking the guidance of Providence rather than a personal God. And also like Washington, when ever they were asked whether they were Christians, both refused to give an answer.
Indian strategic community pleased with religious parties' defeat in Pak polls
An Indian view of the current political situation in Pakistan, it's a good thing if a thaw occurs between the two since they have already fought several wars and now they both have nukes.
India on Tuesday welcomed the restoration of democracy in Pakistan and expressed hope it would usher in an early return to peace and stability in the country. Although India has resisted issuing official comment on election results and the changing political scenario in Pakistan, the strategic community here is pleased with the defeat of religious parties and hardliners, maintaining that it would have a salutary affect on the situation in both Kashmir and Afghanistan.
India's Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma hoped the poll outcome would consolidate democratic institutions and processes in the country.
When asked for his reaction to the Pakistani poll results, Sharma said: "Pakistan is our neighbour. We want peace and stability in the region. India shares a special relationship with Pakistan. Both countries can share the benefits of economic growth."
Sceptical: A section of the strategic community here is sceptical about the leverage the new democratic government will have. They contend that the army will continue to dominate policy on India and Kashmir. Nonetheless, the majority of the community is pleased with Pakistan choosing liberal and progressive faces as its representatives. They believe that the most positive outcome of the polls has been the complete rout of religious parties and hardliners.
And another of the same.
The near wipe-out of fundamentalist parties augurs well for the future but Benazir Bhutto's assassination had robbed Nawaz Sharif of a few seats and he would be the man to watch in the future.
Florida State Officials Under Fire Over Anti-Muslim Film, Promoting Christianity
Censorship is alive and well in florida it seems.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum agreed to establish a Muslim community advisory group late last week after his office came under fire for directing state officials to watch "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," a controversial film featuring one of three alleged ex-terrorists promoting fundamentalist Christianity and vilifying Muslims as terrorists and Islam as "evil."
McCollum's office said the attorney general sent an email to about 500 state employees last month urging them to attend a screening of the film "Obsession" in order to better understand "the terrorist threat to Florida and the West by radical Islam." The attorney general said he still believes the film has "value" and has refused to "dissasociate" himself from a decision to ask members of his staff to view it.
The film was produced and financed by HonestReporting, a media watchdog group based in New York and Jerusalem that says its mission is to "defend Israel from prejudice."
The Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles and the Council of American Islamic Relations said "Obsession" is an "anti-Muslim propaganda film."
"We are gravely alarmed that a respectable, high-level official such as yourself would be promoting such inflammatory anti-Muslim propaganda through your office," MPAC executive director Salam Al Marayati wrote to in a January 23 letter to McCollom." The office that hate crime victims turn to for legal aid and justice is itself igniting the fire of bias and fear through such events."
Jack Shaheen, an Oxford University research scholar and author of four books on racism, stereotyping and propaganda, agreed. He told the St. Petersburg Times in an interview February 12 that the film was "very convincing."
Book Review- American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
A review of an excellent book I recommend to everyone who wants to know about the status of religion in America.
Fascist is a word that is often used yet not very often defined. In debate parlance, those on any side of an issue often claim that the other side is "fascist,"- when they really only intend to denounce the other as some sort of "bad person."
In American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Chris Hedges takes this a step further and makes the case that the Christian Right movement has the potential, and perhaps seeks to, turn America into a fascist state. While defining fascism is tricky and controversial, Wikipedia does a pretty good job of it. Hedge's book makes a strong case that no matter what we call the Christian Right movement, it encompasses many characteristics of fascism, most notably a rejection of modernism, fear of difference, permanent enemies/war, and submission to a central moral authority.
God Is A Psychopath ... And Freedom Is His Prey.
You know you want to read this op-ed if you are reading this blog post. J
What grown men and women are still prepared to believe in the twenty-first century is ... well, hard to believe. I've been watching a lot of Fox TV lately, and am incredulous at the parade of shysters who've just written books claiming they've been to heaven or hell and back, and the deferential tone adopted toward them by supposedly intelligent interviewers who are, supposedly, human beings.
One such chicane is Bill Weise, a Christian who claims to have been plucked from his body by Jesus and dropped off in Hell, so that he could come back, scare the bejeezus out of us wretched sinners and terrify us back to the straight and narrow. A Christian website's blurb for his book calls it:
"An incredible testimony of Bill Wiese and his 23-minute trip to Hell. Bill was placed in Hell, not as a casual observer, but as someone who was not saved. He recounts all the horrid details with such precision that it captivates the listener from start to finish. If you haven't heard these testimonies, stop everything and hear them. They will permanently altered [sic] your outlook on life. My prayer life moved away from 'Lord, bless me here and bless me there,' to 'Souls, Souls, Souls for Jesus.' Jesus came to save us from unspeakable doom, and your love for Him will grow once you hear what He saved us from. Bill's testimony will wake up the Lukewarm, convict the Backslidden, warn the wicked, motivate the timid to share, and put the fear of God into all that hear."
Fox interviewed Mr. Weise and dribbled respectfully as this hornswoggler uttered the most horrendous hogwash. Two drooling beasts were on hand to batter and bruise his ribs as an accoutrement to the sizzling of his flesh, he told us. And he was out of his body? He was assailed on all sides by writhing and screaming, he averred. Heard and seen how, exactly, if his ears and eyes were back at the house still? But aside from such elementary howlers is the fathomless inhumanity of it all ... and it would be nice, though apparently unrealistic, to think such vileness had been put behind us by now.
Right wing intellectuals make wishful thinking sound rational.
An author talks about what is wrong with America these days, in her opinion anyway.
Susan Jacoby, a prominent intellectual who worries about the growing disregard for reason in American political debates, says the dumbing down of political discourse is affecting how citizens choose their leaders and is letting candidates manipulate their audience.
"Without a base of knowledge of how things are you can't really have a reasonable talk about how things ought to be," Jacoby recently told PBS's Bill Moyers. "In other words, you can say, ‘Oh, we don't want a [healthcare] program which will prevent people from choosing their own doctors.' Well, are we able to choose our own doctors? I'm not. I have to choose within a managed care network."
Israeli MP blames quakes on gays
So its seems its not just the American gays who cause natural disasters.
An Israeli MP has blamed parliament's tolerance of gays for earthquakes that have rocked the Holy Land recently. Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, said the tremors had been caused by lawmaking that gave "legitimacy to sodomy".
Israel decriminalized homosexuality in 1988 and has since passed several laws recognizing gay rights. Two earthquakes shook the region last week and a further four struck in November and December.
20 Tacky Religious Products Guaranteed to Anger God.
I want to buy all of them. J