Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Reason Review 1-1

Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the first issue of the first volume of The Reason Review, the semimonthly web newsletter from the Secular Society of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (SSOMIT).

We created this publication to help build a more informed and engaged secular community at and around MIT, by collecting and organizing every couple of weeks' secularism-/atheism-related announcements, news, reports, opinion, and media (podcasts, videos, etc), at the varsity, metropolitan, national, and global levels.

The publication will be archived as entries in this blog for easy reference and browsing. The intended publishing schedule will have an issue come out on the first and third Sundays of each month during the Fall and Spring semesters. That makes for two volumes a year, and approximately seven issues per volume. We'll be refining the format and style as we go along, so please bear with the changes as we do.

We hope you find The Reason Review an informative and enjoyable read. Please let me know if you have any feedback, leads to content you think would be interesting to our audience, or original content that you'd like to contribute.


Sohan Dsouza

Editor of The Reason Review

Contact editor:
Contact SSOMIT:


SSOMIT event for ex-Muslims and friends on Oct 3rd

Block off your schedules for the evening of Monday, October 3rd, as that's when SSOMIT will be organizing the first edition of its first event series aimed at serving atheists from specific religious communities.

The date of this event corresponds to the predicted first day of the Islamic lunar month of Muharram in the Islamic calendar year 1438, a holiday also known as the Islamic/Hijri New Year. We welcome former/"nominal"/"cultural" Muslims in the MIT community to gather over a meal while sharing lived experiences and personal perspectives with one another, 
and we invite others interested in hearing their stories to join us at this secular feast too.

We have a great program lined up for the evening, including the screening of a short documentary on the ex-Muslim experience, personal messages of support from two well-known and outspoken ex-Muslim activists, Eiynah and Yasmine, and a panel discussion with two representatives from Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), no less. Plus, we'll be raffling off Ali A Rizvi's widely lauded book, The Atheist Muslim, to a lucky attendee.

Details on the program and the venue will be provided to ssomit-announce subscribers in another email. Hope you will join us at the first event of this groundbreaking series, as well as later in the academic year for other religions' editions.

SSOMIT Facebook Page

We created a Facebook Page for SSOMIT this year. If you're on Facebook, visit it at, and give it a Like to keep up with what's going on at SSOMIT. Make sure you subscribe to our Events feed in particular ("Subscribe" button at top right of this section), to get instant notifications when we create new Facebook Events.


Atheist successfully funded and extracted from Middle East

A lovely bit of positive local news: Zachary Bos, the American Atheists State Director for Massachusetts, has successfully extracted a young atheist, "Muhammad" ("Mo" for short), from the Middle East, and has gotten him safely to the United States. Mr Bos started a fundraiser to help pay for the transport and setup costs of the scholarship awardee, whose atheism could lead to serious consequences back home. The campaign exceeded its fundraising goal, thanks to the generosity of kind donors to the cause of secularism and freedom of conscience. Mo, who arrived in Boston with just the clothes on his back after a tense journey, has now begun a new life as a free student in a New England university.
- Editor
More on Bos' campaign and Mo's story at

Norway’s biggest church loses more than 25,000 members after new online system makes it easier to leave

Norway's state church has lost more than 25,000 members in a month after it launched an online registration system allowing people to sign up or opt out.
The Lutheran Church is the official religion in Norway and nearly three-quarters of the population are registered as members.
However, since launching a website on 12 August to update its heavily criticised records and offer people an easy way to join or leave, 25,743 members have left the church, 24,653 of those through the site.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on atheist actor Daniel Radcliffe: 'What the hell is wrong with him?'

"You know that Daniel Radcliffe has declared himself an atheist?" Kasich said, apropos of nothing, according to a report in the Concord Monitor. "I'm serious. What a weird thing. Why would a guy who has had all that success just, I mean, what the hell is wrong with him?"
Radcliffe, the successful former child actor, has made no secret of his atheism, telling Esquire Magazine in 2009 that "I'm an atheist, but I'm very relaxed about it. I don't preach my atheism ..."

Pokemon Go 'blasphemous' for rewarding eggs to vegetarians, Indian court told

Lawyer Nachiket Dave argued that the game offended the religious sensibilities of Hindus and Jains — some of whom do not eat meat or other animal products — by giving players virtual eggs, including in places of worship.
"Those who succeed are rewarded with eggs. Offering eggs to people in temples, even in the virtual world, is highly objectionable and amounts to blasphemy," Mr Dave said after the brief hearing at the court in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

Expert on Islamic extremism states Muslims must reform the way they view the Koran

Maajid Nawaz is the founding chairman of Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank which attempts to study and oppose Islamic extremism.
Mr Nawaz, from Essex, made his comments on the need for a reform back in February during a discussion at the Central Synagogue in London. “I take issue with the regressive, medievalist interpretation of Islam,” the 37-year-old said.
“There needs to be a reform of the way Muslims look at their scripture. “There does need to be a reform even among non-Islamist Muslims.

‘Sad day’ for United Church, says atheist minister Gretta Vosper

Gretta Vosper, the popular and controversial United Church of Canada minister who calls herself an atheist, should no longer be a minister, a review committee has recommended.
“In our opinion, she is not suitable to continue in ordained ministry because she does not believe in God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit,” the church’s Toronto Conference Review Committee concluded in a 39-page report released Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia and Iran accuse each other of not really being Muslim

The latest round began with comments from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who in full bluster condemned the Saudis for prohibiting Iranian pilgrims from joining the hajj after talks about security and logistics collapsed. 
A day later, Saudi Arabia's top cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, fired back, dismissing Khamenei's criticism as a feature of supposed Iranian hatred toward Sunnis.

‘Dangerous’: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect bans women from attending college

Composed in Yiddish, the decree warns parents that the “trend” of girls and married women pursuing higher degrees is “against the Torah.”
“We will be very strict about this. No girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree. It is dangerous. Girls who will not abide will be forced to leave our school. Also, we will not give any jobs or teaching position in the school to girls who’ve been to college or have a degree.

Study: Religion contributes more to the U.S. economy than Facebook, Google and Apple combined

The article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion said that the annual revenues of faith-based enterprises — not just churches but hospitals, schools, charities and even gospel musicians and halal food makers — is more than $378 billion a year. And that’s not counting the annual shopping bonanza motivated by Christmas.

Family gets food poisoning at dinner held to celebrate them surviving food poisoning

Alattin Erdal, Ms Erdal's husband, said he was confused by the family's misfortune. 
“We don’t get it. First we were poisoned and then sacrificed an animal for God as a sign of gratitude for gaining our health back. Then we were poisoned once again, as well as the neighbours. May God save us from the worst,” he told Anadolu. “Food poisoning became our nightmare.”

Mandatory music classes hit a bad note with some Muslim parents 

“We here believe that music is haram [forbidden]. We can neither listen to it, nor can we play a role in it,” said the mosque’s imam, Kasim Ingar.
Conceding that Muslims have to adjust when they send their kids to public school, he suggested that some matters, such as teaching music, are beyond debate.
“We do not compromise with anyone on the clear-cut orders and principles conveyed by the Prophet,” said Mr. Ingar, who also leads the Scarborough Muslim Association.

Hundreds of students protest for embattled history teacher

"I teach world history so there is a lot of talk about religion and really all I want is equality to talk about everything in America, including Christianity," Osborne said.
Osborne admits he may go too far in his talks about religion, but felt that children need a positive influence in their lives and for him religion can be that influence.

'Pastor of hate' not welcome in SA, says home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba“Kill the gays” pastor

Steven Anderson and his church have been prohibited from entering South Africa, home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday.The minister made the announcement during a media briefing at Parliament this morning.

Man killed after getting into a fight over religion identified by police

 “Basically you know we are all friends and we were just here chilling. Then two guys had an argument about something,” one neighbor said at the scene. “They ended up verbally abusing each other and then it got to the point where one person left, went to a house, came back and that’s when the guy ended up swinging and stabbing the other man.”
A 31-year-old suspect, identified as Alijan Arif Khan, was arrested hours after the fatal stabbing. Police said the suspect and the victim knew each other.


What It's Like to Be an Atheist in Prison When Only God Forgives

As a result, many prisons have adapted to help inmates on their journeys with God, providing prayer rooms, more access to chaplains, and facilitating special dietary requirements.
Which is all well and good, unless you're an atheist. No one quite knows how many prisoners could be classified as such, in part because the question isn't asked specifically, but over 25,000 prisoners were recorded to "not have a religion" in 2014.

London Group a 'Safe Space' for Black Atheists

 "Many people when they get to know of LBA comment that they have been looking for just such a group."
Other similar groups exist, though they are few in number. The New York-based "Black Atheists of America," for one, aims to bridge the gap between atheism and the black community. Atlanta is home to "Black Nonbelievers." Its mission is to provide support for nonbelievers of all races who are coming out and to promote atheist pride.

How Muslims, Jews and Christians View Creationism

The term creationism refers to the belief that the universe and all living things are acts of divine creation, rather than natural processes. In America, we tend to think of creationism as having a biblical source. But just as not all Christians are creationists, not all creationists are Christian....A relatively recent third variety is neocreationism, which holds that mainstream science is legitimate and actually a reflection of God's work. Neocreationists believe that life evolves, but that the process is guided by divine will.

The hotdog delusion: Sausage Party and the rise of Hollywood atheism

It wouldn’t be quite true to say that the dam has finally and irrevocably broken, that old-time American religious practice is about to be engulfed by a tsunami of unbelief. But in the wider culture, the spectre of atheism has been haunting us since the internet showed the wider world to the backwoods and the boondocks. And even more so since the publication about a decade ago of a trio of tracts on non-belief – The End of Faith, Sam Harris, 2004; The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, 2006; and God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens, 2007, all of which drew massive audiences on promo-tours and ignited widespread debate – and the release of Bill Maher’s anti-religious comedy-doc Religulous.

A Less Lonely Way to Lose Your Faith

Oasis started in the summer of 2012, when Mike Aus, a former pastor, began meeting with friends in Houston who, like him, shared an aversion to religious dogma, but were drawn to the social benefits of organized religious life. They wanted the solidarity of meeting with like-minded people. They wanted to gather weekly “to hear good music and thought-provoking talks.” Moreover, they wanted to be part of a community in which being secular wasn’t a bad thing: less of an absence or “loss” than a positive outlook on life. They had no grand plans to start a movement, the 52-year-old Aus told me recently. What they had was a collective sense of need.

Indonesia and the globalization of religious terrorism

The fundamentalist movements, consisting of Islamist transnational movements, have similar characteristics, which are part of the international Sunni pan-Islamist political movement. They are commonly associated with a goal of unifying all Muslim countries under an Islamic caliphate ruled by Islamic law and led by a caliph as the head of state elected by Muslims.
Having identified such global patterns, Indonesia should address this particular phenomenon as no longer a tactical, temporary phenomenon, but as a strategic, national security threat, which in turn calls for the involvement of all instruments of national power.


Liberalism’s great challenge: How can we critique ideas while still protecting people from discrimination?

“The problem,” said my daughter over dinner, “is that people can’t tell the difference between Islam-ophobia and Muslim-ophobia.” She’s right: The Left recognizes that millions and millions of Muslims are decent people and so insists that Islam itself is benign, while the Right sees Islamic teachings as pernicious and so treats Muslims—and unsuspecting Sikhs and random people who look remotely Middle Eastern—as if they all were capable of erupting into fundamentalist brutalities.

I’m An Atheist, And This Is How I Handled It When My Kids Asked To Go To Church

I did not want to force them not to attend church, but nor did I want to personally take them. It seemed hypocritical and they might think that I was taking them myself only so that I could keep an eye on them, so as they didn’t get too involved.
So, instead of taking them to church myself, I gave them the freedom to go with someone else.

C. S. Lewis’s puerile theology

Here you see two things about Lewis’s book: the extraordinarily clear prose, with no equivocation or evasion, and the easily shredded arguments for God. Lewis’s arguments here are the same as Collins’s: the “Moral Law” we feel inside ourselves must have come from God. And, more than that, Lewis makes a virtue of necessity: the only way God could reveal Himself to us is through our feelings—our realization that some behaviors are “right” and others “wrong. Ergo the dubious “architect” simile, which falls apart with a moment’s thought.

Is There Safety in Piety?

Some of this is conjecture and unverifiable rumor, but when my friends and I discuss what happened that night, we always ask the “what would you do?” question. Without fail, everyone I speak to confesses, with some shame, that they would not have been so brave. I would have left my friends and lived, says one. I would have put on that hijab, says another. I would have recited those verses from the Quran, says a third.
“Better learn your suras,” my sister writes to me, referring to the chapters of the Quran. “You never know when you might need them.”

Christian Pastor: The Reason Most Marriages Go Bad Is That Women “Believe They Are Equal Partners”

This sort of patriarchal thinking is nothing new in the Christian world. But most pastors at least pretend that husband and wife are equal; they just have different roles in a marriage. Oyakhilome does away with that pretense, telling women they just need to shut up and obey. Anything less makes them ugly.


Polite Conversations on Justin Trudeau - Feminism & Mosque Visits

A short 12 minute mini-episode/rant on Justin's recent visit to a mosque where women were not permitted on the main floor and had to watch from the balcony.

Polite Conversations Panel Discssion 3 - The Burkini/hijab/niqab debate

What happens when four women of Muslim background with varied opinions discuss Islamic modesty clothing? Fireworks!
Join Me, Sarah Haider (co-founder of Ex Muslims of North America), Hoda Katebi (Muslim Iranian fashion blogger), Hala Arafa (former newscaster/news editor at Voice of America, Arabic branch) for this wonderful, passionate and intellectually diverse discussion.

Atheist Experience 20.36 with Matt Dillahunty and Don Baker

The Atheist Experience episode 20.36 for September 11, 2016, with Matt Dillahunty and Don Baker. Mercy for the Poor. Don critiques two recent articles about the canonization of Mother Teresa.

Atheist Experience 20.35 with Russell Glasser and Phil Session

The Atheist Experience episode 20.35 for September 4, 2016, with Russell Glasser and Phil Session. Viewer Calls. Russell and Phil take viewer calls.

Godless Spellchecker Ep#88 – Karen Garst – Women Beyond Belief

On this week’s #GSPodcast, Stephen Knight (@GSpellchecker) talks to Dr. Karen Garst (@Karen_garst) about her book ‘Women Beyond Belief’. We also touch on the Hobby Lobby controversy, the first amendment, feminism and more!

Thinking Atheist Podcast 292: The Illusion of God's Presence (with Jack Wathey)

John C. Wathey is a computational biologist whose research interests include evolutionary algorithms, protein folding, and the biology of nervous systems.
John (who goes by "Jack") has written a new book titled, "The Illusion of God's Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing." In this broadcast, Seth andrews speaks with the author about humankind's (evolved?) tendency to seek the supernatural in a natural world.

Thinking Atheist Podcast 291: An Unholy Union - Interfaith Relationships

What happens when people with conflicting views about God, religion and spirituality fall in love and decide to share life together?
Does love conquer all? We discuss. Plus, Dale McGowan, author of "In Faith and in Doubt," joins us to cap the show with some notes about his research on interfaith couples

Scathing Atheist 186: Saint Misbehavin' Edition 

In this week’s episode, the movie Room becomes a religious documentary, Kevin Sorbo masters a British aphasia accent for an upcoming role, and the Quran continues to be a guy not knowing when to just go with “et cetera.”

Friendly Atheist Podcast Ep. 126 - Britt Marie Hermes, Naturopathy Apostate 

Britt Marie Hermes is a former naturopathic doctor who now speaks out about the pseudoscientific ideology.
We spoke about how she went from studying naturopathic medicine to fighting against it, what caused her to change her mind, and what she would say to patients who reject western medicine.

Friendly Atheist Podcast Ep. 125 - Evan Clark, Consultant for Openly Atheist Politicians 

Evan Clark is the founder and creative director of Spectrum Experience, the nation's first private Humanist consulting firm that has also been behind the campaigns of several atheists running for local, state, and federal office. His candidates just had a wildly successful primary day in Arizona this past week. Evan is also chair of the Secular Student Alliance and co-host of the Humanist Experience podcast.
We spoke about how he began Spectrum Experience, the most strategic ways for atheists to run for office, and why coming out as non-religious matters in politics.

Atheistically Speaking AS275: Did Jesus Exist? With Tim O’Neill

Joining me for a second appearance is Tim O’Neill! Tim blogs about history here. After Tim’s very successful first appearance on the show, many listeners asked for a follow up on Mythicism and Tim was nice enough to oblige!

Atheistically Speaking AS274: David Smalley of Dogma Debate and Andrew Torrez

Listeners will know I’ve been very critical of a particular exchange David had with Andrew, so I feel absolutely obligated to give David the chance to come on the show to provide his point of view. The result is an unedited conversation between the 3 of us.

Point of Inquiry on Terrible Food, Small Portions: Andrew Stark on Accepting Your Inevitable Demise

 Death is an unsettling thing to come to grips with. We know it is inevitable that it will one day happen to us. One of the first things most of us learn about death is that it happens to everyone, yet perhaps because no one ever comes back to tell the tale, there’s a lot about our impending doom that’s difficult to fully grasp. To help us take comfort in our inexorable demise, we welcome Andrew Stark, an author and political science professor at the University of Toronto


#362 Debate - Christopher Hitchens vs Dennis Prager, Dinesh D'Souza - God Or No God - 2008

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