Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Reason Review 1-2

Editorial Message

Dear Readers,

Whew, we've made it to our second issue. There's a lot in this one too, so if you're pressed right now, bookmark it and take your time with it over the next couple of weeks until 1-3 comes out.

We're getting ready for our first Out And Out event, this one being for the ex-Muslim community and their secular supporters.

In local news, a Christian minister is being forced to take a course on Islam because she assaulted a Muslim tenant. While I am all in favor of educating people about religions in an unbiased manner (have to wonder about how unbiased this course would be), I would think the appropriate response to bigotry-motivated assault is to take a class on anger management and dealing with differences, which would result in a more broad-reaching tolerance -- that would be useful if she also had, say, a Hindu tenant or an atheist tenant. The implications of such a precedent would be rather absurd if applied universally: would one have to take a class on quantum healing if one assaulted a Chopramaniac, or a class on Thetan mythology if one assaulted a Scientologist? Or no class if one assaulted an atheist (since atheism is lack of belief)?

My old home, Dubai, is also in the news for upgrading its Quran Park, where the promoters will trot out -- among other claims -- the long-debunked nonsense about Islamic prescience of scientific discoveries. Poor Ken Ham must be salivating over how easy it is for non-secular countries to just build these kinds of things with state money, while he wrestles with scandal over the tenuously-justified state tax breaks he managed to get in the US for his Christian Noachide Ark theme park. Given how awful a failure said park turned out, it is amusing that a similar venture coming up in Canada has also made the issue.

A couple of days ago, -- Sep 30th, to be precise -- we celebrated International Blasphemy Rights day, which a Canadian province just recognized. I hope all of you got around to something at least a little blasphemous. Indeed, a lot of blasphemy and general irreverence made the issue, and is being cracked down on -- in Ireland (by censorship), in India (by criminal law), in Pakistan (by criminal law), in Singapore (by criminal law), in Myanmar (by criminal law), and in Jordan (by criminal law, and then by vigilante murder, sadly).

Our Reports section includes a worrying report on the rise of creationism in Europe, and a more hope-raising comprehensive report on atheism in America. There's a sketchy report on divorce and religion, which may be confusing correlation with causation -- check it out and see for yourselves.

Highlights from the Opinion section include great pieces on the perception of atheism in The Atlantic and on the history of secularism in the Post Gazette. Our classic hit for the issue is a TED talk on gullibility. We also have a ton of other media linked, including a flurry of publishing activity from Matt's Atheist Debates, so be sure to check them out over the next couple of weeks, and subscribe to the makers' podcast/video channels.

Hope you enjoy the issue.


Sohan Dsouza
Editor of The Reason Review

Contact editor:
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SSOMIT event for ex-Muslims and friends tomorrow!

Hope you've blocked off your schedules for tomorrow evening (Monday, October 3rd), which is when we're having our first "Out And Out" event. Keep up to date with the event on the Facebook Event page, where we've posted extended profiles on our panelists, public figure supporters, and grand raffle prize. See you in 56-114 tomorrow at 7pm!


Forced to learn Islam? Mass. minister fights ruling

New York Law School professor Robert Blecker said the order does not appear to violate Obi's constitutional rights.
"We're not requiring her to embrace any (religious) principles. We're requiring her to learn about them," Blecker said.
Suffolk University law professor Christopher Dearborn disagreed, saying that although Obi's conduct may be considered highly offensive, he believes the judge should have ordered her to attend anger management classes or counseling instead of ordering her to take a course on Islam.

Arizona high school boys soccer team refuses to play team with two female players

The players voted not to play unless midfielders Alyssa and Colette Hocking were allowed to play.
“Actually, it was the team’s decision,” Foothills coach Steven Rains said. “They would not play without their team. They felt the girls earned the right to be on the team. And they won’t play without them.“

Kentucky Student Says His Car Window Was Smashed In Because He Had a Poem About Atheism on the Seat

A woman named Brittani wrote a poem called “What God Needs” for her Creative Writing class at a college in Paducah, Kentucky. It’s a piece that clearly has an atheist bent, referring to “A daughter with lymphoma” and “An ethics class, maybe three.”
Her boyfriend Aaron had a copy of it lying in his car where anyone could see it… and did I mention this was in Kentucky?

Evangelical Pastor: Donald Trump Under ‘Concentrated Satanic Attack’

Pastor Darrell Scott said that five years ago, an unnamed “nationally known preacher” claimed that if Trump ran for president, he would come under a “concentrated satanic attack.” Scott said the preacher warned of “a demon, principalities and powers, that are going to war against you on a level that you’ve never seen before.”

Giant ark planned for Bible-based theme park near Moose Jaw, Sask.

A cemetery south of Moose Jaw, Sask., has been approved as the future home of a theme park complete with full-sized replicas of biblical structures from a tabernacle to Noah's ark.
"This will be a one-of-a-kind tourist attraction and I think there will be people coming from all over the world to visit," said Marc L'Hoir, who manages Sunset Cemetery in the city.

Believe it or not: Victoria proclaims Blasphemy Rights Day

"That repeal is more than cleaning up old elements: it's sending a message to these countries like Jordan and Ireland that blasphemy laws are not okay in the 21st Century."

Dubai’s Quran Park gets a cave and glass house 

“The park is considered a great opportunity to explain the meanings of a lot of wonders and miracles mentioned in the Holy Quran in the scientific and medical fields, and the benefits of the plants mentioned in the Holy Quran and how modern medicine is highly dependent upon these plants for treatments as well as their environmental benefits.”

Dutch tourist charged for insulting religion 

“The foreigner has been detained in police custody because the immigration department and the head of the sermon recital team are pressing charges,” said Police Captain Hla Myint of the tourist police.
U Kyaw San, who was delivering the sermon, filed charges at the police station in Maha Aung Myay township under section 295 of the penal code for intending to insult religious feelings or beliefs, and under section 4 (2) and 13 (1) of the Myanmar Immigration Law.

Singapore jails teen blogger Amos Yee for anti-religion posts

Amos Yee, 17, will spend six weeks in jail for deliberately posting videos and comments critical of Christianity and Islam.
Judge Ong Hian Sun told the court that Yee's actions could "generate social unrest".

Saudi Arabians, Muslims lash out at Myriam Fares over 'anti-Islam photo'

The 33-year-old singer was merely congratulating them on the 86th anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s National Day.
However, the large majority from the conservative Muslim country weren't too keen on seeing Myriam's fully made-up face on their flag, which has the words "There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is his Prophet" written on it.

Indian ‘atheist’ held for criticising Islam on social media

A self-proclaimed atheist youth was arrested in Indian city of Kolkata for ‘hurting religious feelings’ after he re-posted a critique of Islam on Facebook.
Tarak Biswas, 32, reportedly routinely criticised several religions on the social media, evoking strong reactions and sparking debate. The youth, however, was held after he re-posted the material relating to Islam from another website.

Christian Teen Charged with Blasphemy Over Mecca Photo

A Pakistani Christian teen has been charged with blasphemy over a derogatory picture of Islam’s holiest place, police said on Tuesday.
Nabeel Chohan was arrested for liking and sharing on social media a disparaging photograph of the Kaaba, the building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that Muslims turn and pray to five times a day.

Nahed Hattar shot dead: Prominent Jordanian writer charged with offensive Facebook post killed

A Jordanian writer who was arrested for posting a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam has been shot dead.
Nahed Hattar was assassinated in front the Supreme Court in Amman with local media reporting he was shot three times in the head.

Nissan commercial featuring same-sex couples rankles religious Israelis

The Hotam Forum, comprised of religious research institutes in Israel, launched its campaign on Wednesday, The Times of Israel reported, posting an image of the ad with a stop sign covering it. Another photo shows a family with a mother, father and two children. A banner reads: “In our family car there is a mother and a father.”

Female chess players forced to wear hijab as governing body awards world championship to Iran

Within hours of Iran being revealed as its host country, the prestigious event was plunged into crisis as it emerged players taking part face arrest if they don't cover up.
In response, Grandmasters lined up to say they would boycott the 64-player knock-out and accused the game's scandal-hit governing body Fide of failing to stand up for women’s rights.

Thousands of people took to the streets Saturday to protest Ireland’s strict abortion laws

Last year, Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote—a remarkable victory in a country where the Catholic church has historically wielded a great deal of power. But while Irish citizens may be drifting from the church, the country’s strict abortion ban shows that Catholicism retains influence over their everyday lives.

UPDATE: My Scientology Movie will not be released in Ireland

The film has a UK distributor, Altitude and is set to be released over there on October 14th. However as we reported earlier this year, an Irish distributor has yet to be confirmed and it's looking likely that none will be. 
The main stumbling block seems to be Ireland's blasphemy laws and in particular the The Defamation Act of 2009. According to that piece of legislation, any "publication or utterance of blasphemous matter" against any religion is an offence and carries a fine of €25,000.


Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back

Today, nearly four in ten (39%) young adults (ages 18-29) are religiously unaffiliated—three times the unaffiliated rate (13%) among seniors (ages 65 and older). While previous generations were also more likely to be religiously unaffiliated in their twenties, young adults today are nearly four times as likely as young adults a generation ago to identify as religiously unaffiliated. In 1986, for example, only 10% of young adults claimed no religious affiliation.

Creationism Invades Europe

For years, although creationists were growing in number in European countries and gradually developing an influence in schools and local communities, they mostly kept under the radar and were not a major concern. Not until, at least, about a decade ago, when the Council of Europe issued a warning against the growth of creationism and the potential threat to the educational system it posed.

In Tibet, religious freedom with Chinese characteristics

It is not so simple for religious figures and institutions, experts say.
"Temples, monasteries... Of course, they are controlled," said Jens-Uwe Hartmann, a specialist in Buddhism at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and an expert on Tibet.
"What they are doing is very closely observed."
If religious leaders emerge who are not approved by the Chinese Communist Party, they simply disappear, Hartmann said, adding: "So you'd better keep your mouth shut."

Sufi Sect of Islam Draws ‘Spiritual Vagabonds’ in New York

“Sufism has never been embraced by mainstream Islam,” said Daisy Khan, founder of the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality and one-half of the couple who in 2010 sought to open a community center in Lower Manhattan, mislabeled the “ground zero mosque.”
For Ms. Khan, the ethereal buzz of Sufism is its great appeal, a faith that is “beyond the realm of this world,” dealing with the “supernatural, the magical and love.”

How decades of divorce helped erode religion

“A lot of the narrative around the rise of the nones, or the rise of the non-affiliated, has focused on how there’s changing cultural preferences, that people are choosing to move away from religion,” said Daniel Cox, one of the researchers on the new study. “I think there’s also a structural part of the story that has not gotten as much attention. We wanted to focus on the way millennials were raised, which is different from any previous generation. And part of that is they’re more likely to have grown up with parents who are divorced.”


‘Women Atheists Are Genuinely Considered Monsters’

The term “atheist” is a slur. There’s no way anyone in the 17th or 18th century wanted to be called an atheist. It’s a slur within Christian theological discussions about people who are libertines, who are living as if there is no God.
There were other terms that were seen as ways of sidestepping the slur of atheism. You might think of yourself as a freethinker or you might call yourself a deist. But even those were dangerous labels to assume.

Why do we Need to Support Progressive Muslims?

I, therefore, believe that secular Muslims, ex-Muslims and people of other faiths must form a strong bond with Muslim reformists. We have more similarities and less differences. The people that Islamists despise the most are not Atheists but those who have taken up the task to re-interpret Islam and challenge Islamists doctrinally.
Islamists don’t want to see themselves challenged scripturally and this is precisely why they keep targeting such Reformist Scholars. A few years ago, two Modernist scholars Doctor Shakeel Auj and Doctor Muhammad Farooq Khan were murdered by the extremists for their modern views on Islam.

How to Fight Extremism with Atheism

New Atheism has already succeeded in shifting the cultural landscape of Western civilization, making it far more acceptable to be openly atheist, giving atheists unprecedented public visibility, buttressing the legal boundaries of secularism and changing the nature of public discourse about faith, belief, God and religion.

Why ‘God And Country’ Christianity Is Just Another Phony Prosperity Gospel

This form of American Christianity is a frustrating faction of the faith. There are passionate but generic references to God, calls for fervent prayer and public pleas for “morality.” But the alleged No. 1 devotion to God is usually tied to a No. 1a devotion to the Stars and Stripes, as if one must always be tied to the other.
It’s a gospel that pays lip service to a god that’s in control, but it’s heavy on emotions that say man is really the one who protects us. In other words, it’s a gospel that downplays or ignores the complete sovereignty of God.

Where religion and politics meet 

The political theories of Rousseau, Hobbes and Locke placed humans at the center of the universe and in social contract with one another. Their concepts were adapted by the founding fathers to create American democracy.
The United States, however, was founded by refugees of religious persecution, and therefore the First Amendment, prohibiting an official religion, was crucial in establishing a society different from Europe’s. But old habits die hard.


Atheist Debates - What does atheism offer?

I've frequently been asked "What does atheism have to offer?" - and it's come up so many times that it seemed like a good idea to offer a little more than the obvious answer.

Atheist Debates - You're not an atheist, you're an agnostic

Do the labels matter? What if they get in the way? Weren't we having a great issue-based conversation before you decided to change the topic to the labels?

Atheist Debates - Preparing for debates

A talk given to the Rationalists of East Tennessee, discussing how I view and prepare for debates, with tips for discussions that aren't formal debates.

Atheist Experience 20.38 with Matt Dillahunty and Greta Christina

The Atheist Experience episode 20.38 for September 25, 2016, with Matt Dillahunty and guest Greta Christina. Bat Cruise lecturer Greta Christina talks about her books and current projects.

Atheist Experience 20.37 with Russell Glasser and Tracie Harris

The Atheist Experience episode 20.37 for September 18, 2016, with Russell Glasser and Tracie Harris. Viewer Calls. Tracie and Russell take a special caller, then move on to other calls.

The Thinking Atheist -- The Superstition Summer Camp Solution

Summer has come and gone, but for many of us, our memories of summer camp remain fresh in our minds, partially because those camps were more interested in Christ than they were in campfires, swimming holes, nature hikes, team sports, friendships and fun.
In this broadcast, we share some stories from our listeners, highlighting their own "Jesus Camp"-esque experiences, and we highlight Camp Quest, a secular summer camp which is providing a welcoming, woo-free alternative to the church-run (and church-funded) religious camps that sell camp...but deliver church.

The Thinking Atheist -- Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism (with Aron Ra)

Aron Ra has a new book based on his popular YouTube video series, "Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism." We talk to Aron about these falsehoods, and the new book.

Atheistically Speaking AS278: NO CHILD LEFT ALONE

For the next two episodes I bring you a fascinating discussion with two of the three researchers who conducted the study described here. This is the perfect topic for this show because it illustrates how badly our intuitions track the data sometimes. It’s also a critical issue that could affect any of us! I hope you enjoy hearing from the researchers who brought us this study as much as I did!

Atheistically Speaking AS279: NO CHILD LEFT ALONE, PART 2

Today we delve even further into the study found here. We talk more about the implications and possible explanations for the ultimate finding, which of course was a strong effect of people evaluating the danger of a situation not based on actual risk but on moral judgment.

Point of Inquiry -- Editing Our Pasts: Dr. Julia Shaw on The Illusion of Memory

Even when it comes to our most confident recollections, the potential for memory error has proven to be profound, and Dr. Shaw believes understanding the science of memory can help us deal with our brains’ tendency to rewrite the past.

Polite Conversations -- Episode 15 - Michael Sherlock: opposing tribes & "befriending bigots"

Here's my fun chat with Michael Sherlock - activist, atheist, secularist and author.

Polite Conversations -- PC Panel Discussion 4 - Australian Hate Speech Laws (Part 1)

While, of course I am incredibly against anti muslim bigotry, I don't think legislating speech will be an effective form of combating it. Incitement to violence and harm, harming someone's private property excluded of course.
On the other hand, this also demonstrates to me that refusing to address underlying problematic attitudes in minority communities (out of good intent to protect them from discrimination)can result in furthering divides.

The #GSPodcast -- EP#89 – HAYDAR ZAKI – PREVENT

Haydar Zaki (@HaydarZaki1) is the Outreach & Programme Coordinator for The Quilliam Foundation. We talk about the link between beliefs and violence, the Prevent strategy, Malia Bouattia, radicalisation in universities, Anjem Choudary, #Right2debate, criminalising hate speech, the Iraq war and more!


This week on Taking The Myth, Stephen Knight (@Gspellchecker) and Iram Ramzan (@Iram_Ramzan) discuss the big topics. We talk about The Secularism 2016 conference, violence at a Sikh wedding, Tommy Robinson’s anti-ISIS flag, criminalising speech, Andy Burnham and Prevent, the death of Labour, the cult of Jeremy Corbyn and more!

ScathingAtheist 188: Gay Math Edition

In this week’s episode, we get ready to say hurtful things on the internet for a cause, a homophobic teacher tries out historical math instead of observational, and the Quran will continue to have words in it.

ScathingAtheist 189: Vulgarity for Charity 2 Edition

In this week’s episode, Canada decides to borrow some american stupid, Donald Trump gets a magical demon shield to help with his debate prep, and Tom and Cecil join us to make people regret asking us to roast their loved ones.

Friendly Atheist Podcast -- Ep. 129 - Dr. Leigh Eric Schmidt, Author of Village Atheists

Dr. Leigh Eric Schmidt is the Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. He joined the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics in 2011. He previously taught at Harvard and Princeton. He has appeared in and on all kinds of media to talk about his work and he’s the author of several books. His latest is Village Atheists: How America's Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation.
We spoke with Leigh about whether we were ever a "Christian nation," why the "New Atheists" really aren't new at all, what we can learn from a cartoonist who lived a century ago.

Friendly Atheist Podcast -- Ep. 128 - Frank Schaeffer, Former Evangelical Christian Leader

In another life, Frank Schaeffer would probably be an evangelical leader and someone with a powerful position in conservative politics. His father was the influential Christian theologian Francis Schaeffer and Frank himself, along with his father, helped create the modern Religious Right. Frank is the author of "Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back" and, more recently, "Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God."
We spoke about his role in creating the Religious Right, why evangelicals are flocking to Donald Trump when he shares almost none of their values, and what he would say to anyone who might vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein.

Mythicist Milwaukee -- Promoting Skepticism Through Comedy w/ Willie Barcena

Comedian Willie Barcena is not afraid to take on religion as a stand-up comedian. In his 2016 Netflix special “The Truth Hurts” he challenges the existence of God and the accuracy of the Bible.

Je Suis Muslim: How Universal Secular Rights Protect Muslim Communities the Most

Author and anti-Islamist activist Maajid Nawaz explains how certain members of the "regressive left" threaten progress within minority communities, in particular liberal Muslims.
Nawaz' argument is simple: If we claim to support human rights and classical liberalism, why do we pull punches when it comes to criticizing minority communities and cultures that don't live up to those standards?


Why people believe weird things | Michael Shermer Why do people see the Virgin Mary on cheese sandwiches or hear demonic lyrics in "Stairway to Heaven"? Using video, images and music, professional skeptic Michael Shermer explores these and other phenomena, including UFOs and alien sightings. He offers cognitive context: In the absence of sound science, incomplete information can combine with the power of suggestion (helping us hear those Satanic lyrics in Led Zeppelin). In fact, he says, humans tend to convince ourselves to believe: We overvalue the "hits" that support our beliefs, and discount the more numerous "misses."

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