Monday, December 26, 2016

The Reason Review 1-7

 The Reason Review - Volume 1 Issue 7 


Editorial Message

Dear Readers,

Welcome to The Reason Review 1-7.

It's the end of our first semester of publication, and therefore of our first volume. As might be expected for this time of the year, we have numerous news links to stories from the purported "War on Christmas", as well as a dissection of the very concept linked in the Reports section. On the local "front line", I joined Boston Atheists in installing a banner in Boston Common. It was a pleasant little outing, although the mood was dampened a little by what was going on at the State House in the background: a nativity scene set up for the afternoon, complete with a clerical blessing ceremony, inside the State House itself (the first link in the News section). This breach of a longstanding informal truce over expression or symbol display of religion AND irreligion was sprung on the secular community with practically no notice (and therefore no opportunity to respond in kind), engineered on behalf of Rep. Lyons (R-Andover) by the right-leaning Thomas More Society. This is a society that claims to stand for "religious liberty" while being named after a statesman who had people arrested and burned at the stake for heresy; it's rather appropriate, then, that they would assist in whittling away at the religion-state barrier. Hopefully, this incident will be used as precedent for a "complementary" installation by the secularist movement next year.

Since the last issue, I also finally completed the bi-weekly "Islam and the Modern Worldview" lecture series conducted this past semester by Brandeis professor Sharif El-Tobgui for the MIT Muslim Student Association. From having the cosmological argument casually lobbed at me in the first lecture, to having to defend the scientific theory of human evolution against persistent faith-based opposition, to constant sneers at the ideal of state secularism, it was a somewhat frustrating experience to endure. Of course, these sentiments would not be out of place in the worldview of a conservative Jew or Christian, and Dr el-Tobgui did indeed express agreement with and admiration for these other regressive strains of shared Abrahamic origin. Secularists, take note: the values we guard must be guarded consistently, against threats from ALL quarters.

In other news, we have an event lined up for the IAP period, described and linked in the Announcements section. There's supposed to be a Christian apologetics course during the IAP period as well; I plan on attending and reporting from there too. We also have a bunch of novel and awesome events lined up for next semester, catering to interests in skepticism, counter-apologetics, apostasy, and biological evolution theory. We therefore look forward to the new year with special excitement, and wish you all happy holidays until then.

Hope you enjoy the issue.


Sohan Dsouza
Editor of The Reason Review
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2017/FEB/01 -- Bon Voyage: Leaving Faith on Good Terms

In this special IAP event, the Secular Society of MIT will offer a warm welcome into community to those exploring secularism while one of MIT’s Christian chaplains will offer parting words of blessing and affirmation to those whose authentic journey is leading them out of Christianity. There will also be a time for sharing stories of leaving faith and offering support for those who are in a spiritual transition or contemplating one. Dinner and dessert will be provided.


Nativity gets place at [Massachusetts] State House

“We are prepared to litigate this case for you if those in charge of the Bureau’s role as (a) supposedly neutral gatekeeper to this traditional and designated public forum do not promptly fulfill their constitutional duty,” the society’s lawyers wrote. Lyons said he promptly won approval the next day, and the Nativity scene will be on display from noon to 3 p.m., with clergy on hand at 2 p.m. to bless it.

Atheists now legally protected in US under religious freedom bill signed by Barack Obama

"That non-theists are now recognised as a protected class is a significant step toward full acceptance and inclusion for non-religious individuals, who are still far too often stigmatised and persecuted around the world."

Shelton Resident Wins Right to Place Atheist 'Winter Solstice' Sign at City Park

"We'd prefer to keep public parks and government buildings free from religious divisiveness," said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker in a statement. "But if a devotional nativity display is allowed, there must be 'room at the inn' for all points of view, including irreverence and freethought."

Anti-religion banner posted next to nativity scene in a Manassas park

“The goal is not to offend. It's to maybe cause somebody to think,” he said. “[Nelson Park is] a public forum,” he added. “Anybody has the right, the ability, to file for a permit and put up a display here.”

Satanists Declare They Are Religiously Exempt From Heartbeat Bill

“Our tenets assert bodily autonomy and uphold science as the arbiter of claims over what is true, to which we give deference in our decisions. As the Ohio Bill is imposed for no medical purpose and presents no compelling state interest, it is simply a violation of our free exercise, we will fight back against it, and we will very likely prevail,” Greaves added.

Noted atheist Rob Sherman dies in plane crash: 'He was dedicated to his causes'

"I've known Rob for all my 20 years as an activist. He was a proud fighter for religious freedom and the separation of church and state. He was a great activist and a great person," Silverman said in an email. "I've flown with him in that very plane when he gave me a tour of Chicago. He loved that plane and loved flying it."

Sean Hannity Teams With Kevin Sorbo for Faith-Friendly Movie

"It's been likened to Ghost meets Heaven Is for Real, with a dash of God's Not Dead," Sorbo said of the film, which was made on a $3 million production budget. Sorbo is still working on a distribution deal but he expects the film to open in November 2017.

God Is a Sadistic Internet Troll in the Delightful French Satire ‘The Brand New Testament’

Dormael’s fable is emblazoned with CG-heightened colors and a sugary uplifting score, rife with interconnecting storylines that speak to a grand unifying design, marked by an overarching belief in people’s inherent goodness and universal desire for togetherness, and chockablock with random flights of fancy.

Church, State See Eye to Eye in Putin's Orthodox Russia

The moral authority of the Orthodox Church has grown steadily under Putin, who sides with the church in promoting traditional family values and opposing gay rights. He, in turn, cites Russia's Christian roots to justify the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, noting that a prince of medieval Russia was baptized there more than a millennium ago.

Death Penalty Looms For Mauritanian Blogger Accused Of Insulting Islam

The bloodthirsty protest in November was the latest instalment in a case that has become a source of national fury in Mauritania, a conservative Islamic republic and one of just eight countries where apostasy is a capital offense.

Saudi Arabia to 'inoculate' children against Westernisation, atheism and liberalism

It states that Saudis must be brought up on the basis of Islamic faith and that the state will accordingly strive to maintain the country’s Arab and Islamic values and “protect Islam”. The constitution stipulates that education will “aim at instilling the Islamic faith in the younger generation” and mould children to be “useful” in society.

Pakistan International Airlines goat slaughter mocked

n Pakistan killing a black goat is supposed by many to ward off evil. But the move by ground staff in Islamabad prompted hoots of incredulity once it was established the images were genuine and had not been photo-shopped.

Indonesia blasphemy case: Emotional scenes as Ahok trial begins

The case is being seen as a test of religious tolerance in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. The prosecution said Mr Purnama insulted Islam by misusing a Koranic verse which suggests Muslims should not be ruled by non-Muslims, to boost public support ahead of February's governorship election.


How Fox News Created the War on Christmas

Over the last decade, many Americans changed their minds about the greeting they want to hear, and the question of what to say to customers and neighbors became fraught with social meaning. This change — and the very idea of a war on Christmas — seems to be the result of coverage on one channel: Fox News.

Where is the world's most 'godless' city?

Meanwhile, the author and biopsychologist Nigel Barber has argued that as cities become more stable and prosperous, their inhabitants are less likely to feel the need for religious belief.

Virgin Mary, Career-Killer

Salome is a fictional character, but real human beings have also paid a price for questioning the details of the nativity story or the status of Mary. In the fifth century, Nestorius, the archbishop of Constantinople, argued that Mary should be called “mother of Christ” rather than “mother of God.”

Sarah Haider On Leaving Islam, Changing Liberals’ Minds, And Ex-Muslims Of North America

I thought I just needed better teachers, books, and resources so that I could understand it correctly. In that sense I didn’t know I was on the path to leaving religion. I thought I was on the path to better understanding it.


Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins -- Why Steve Bannon wants to destroy secularism

Instead he references none other than Julius Evola – one of the intellectual godfathers of European fascism who promoted a spiritual type of racism – whose reception in Russian under Putin has inspired a traditionalist movement from which Bannon believes there is much to learn.

Hiba Krisht -- Women’s Rights vs Anti- Muslim Bigotry: An Unfortunate Tension

‘Hojabi’. Slut-shaming. Blatant denial and disingenuous rationalization of manifest sexism and inequality. Violence and cruelty hidden and obscured and dressed in the comfortable trappings of respectable conservatism.

J. H. McKenna -- Little Things Can Make An Atheist

Unbelief is a false crime, and belief is not meritorious. God can neither be injured by the one nor boosted by the other.


Polite Conversations -- 12 Days of Haraam-mas

A very haraam Xmas song by Eiynah and Dylan Beck, with vocals by Eiynah, Ali Rizvi, Maryam Namazie, Sarah Haider, and Faisal Al Mutar

MassLive -- WATCH: Atheists Put Up Holiday Sign on Boston Common

While a Nativity scene was on display at the Mass. State House, local atheists put up a holiday sign on Boston Common.

A Fox News Host Invited an Atheist to Church As He Promoted His Group’s Latest Billboards

Last week, American Atheists announced their latest billboards, urging non-believers to skip church over Christmas. One of them even made that point by riffing on Donald Trump‘s campaign slogan.

Ex-Muslims of North America -- Sarra: Life Beyond Faith

She began to doubt her faith when she discovered philosophy and began studying history and logic. By the age of 21, she no longer considered herself a believer. Since leaving the faith, Sarra wants to use her freedom and skills to help others. She started an online group for Tunisians who are struggling with Islam to connect with each other and offer support.

Atheist Experience -- 20.49 with Matt Dillahunty and Jen Peeples

The Atheist Experience episode 20.49 for December 11, 2016, with Matt Dillahunty and Jen Peeples. ACA Position Statements. Matt and Jen defend our apparent "liberal" views, both in the ACA and the show.

Atheist Experience -- 20.50 with Jen Peeples and John Iacoletti

The Atheist Experience episode 20.50 for December 18, 2016, with John Iacolettii and Jen Peeples. Some Pre-Christmas Thoughts. Jen and John talk about a few Christmas-related items.

Atheist Debates -- Alex Malpass on epistemology and presuppositionalists

Alex Malpass ( sits down for a long conversation about philosophy, epistemology and presuppositionalists.

Atheist Debates -- Street Epistemology

Anthony Magnabosco drops by to talk about the pros and cons of Street Epistemology

Mythicist Milwaukee -- Dr. Bill Zingrone: On Human Uniqueness

Dr. Bill Zingrone is a college instructor and secular activist with a PhD in developmental psychology and research interests in cognitive development and evolution, with a driving motivation to dispel outdated religious based ideas about human nature that are ingrained in the folk beliefs of our modern culture. He is a very active member of the secular movement in Illinois.

GSPodcast -- Taking The Myth – December 2016 Edition

This week on Taking The Myth, Stephen Knight (@Gspellchecker) and Iram Ramzan (@Iram_Ramzan) discuss the big topics. We talk about the Amazon ‘Allah doormat’ controversy, Cryogenics, ‘Muslims like Us’ TV show, Berlin and Ankara terrorism, the case of ex-Marine Alexander Blackman and much, much more!

Dogma Debate -- #290 - Christian Blogger vs. David Smalley

Jeremy Christian - yes, that's his real name, joins David Smalley in studio to take questions from listeners.

Atheistically Speaking -- AS300: The Scathing Atheist, Plus A Personal Message And Announcement!

Joining me first to kick off my extra special 300th episode, 3 part, 3+ hour extravaganza are none other than Noah, Heath, and Eli of the Scathing Atheist and God Awful Movies! Oh right, and the Skepticrat … I interview the guys on a few different topics related to their particular approach to atheist activism and spreading knowledge while also being entertaining.

Atheistically Speaking -- AS303: Doing Charity Better, With Foundation Beyond Belief

Joining me for today is Noelle George, Executive Director of Foundation Beyond Belief! Since the holidays have rolled around again and you’ve likely started to hear the annoying, holier than thou jangle of constant Salvation Army bells outside of every grocery store and mall, I thought it might be a good idea to talk with someone doing charity without strings attached! Noelle and I talk about her background and atheism for a bit, and then we go on to discuss the exciting and important work the foundation does!

The Thinking Atheist -- One Nation: Divisible

The original U.S. Pledge of Allegiance calls the USA, "one nation...indivisible."  Yet it remains a nation splintered and divided, with many of those divisions fueled by religious ideas.  This broadcast welcomes several special guests to talk about America, the rise of secularism, the influence of the Religious Right, and the future of a country that seems unable to agree about anything.

The Thinking Atheist -- Christmas Music by Secular Artists

It's surprising to many, but a lot of atheists and non-Christians enjoy Christmas music...even the tunes that talk about angels singing and the Bethlehem star.  We speak about this (supposed) contradiction, and several special guests join host Seth Andrews for a casual round of holiday songs around the hearth.

The Thinking Atheist -- Heathen Holidays

How do atheists handle religious holidays (and religious families) every year, and how do many atheists mark an occasion with Christ in the title?  This show features the perspectives of our listeners, advice on how skeptics can (if they choose) enjoy the holiday season and navigate the often turbulent waters stirred by fundamentalist families, and a few holiday anecdotes.

ScathingAtheist -- 200: 200th Edition

In this week’s episode, we finish the Quran and definitely do NOT burn our copies (please don’t murder us), we learn -- unrelatedly -- that you shouldn't burn a Kindle inside your house, and we’ll go long by thirty minutes, so hopefully there’s traffic.

ScathingAtheist -- 201: Lump of Coal Edition

In this week’s episode, all three of Eli’s hobbies become legal as an early Christmas present, abortion abortionists in Oklahoma fail to recognize that abortions are corporations just like people, and Bryce Blankenagel of the Naked Mormonism podcast will be here to tell us about more people that Mormons killed.

The Friendly Atheist -- 139: The Year In Review (Red Wine Edition)

We (Hemant and Jessica) sat down to discuss all the big stories from 2016. By which we mean whatever stories we could cram into two hours. Those topics included atheism, our future traveling roadshow, and Donald Trump.

The Friendly Atheist -- 140: The Producers Of The Documentary "We Believe In Dinosaurs"

Monica Long Ross and Amy Ellison are two of the producers at 137 Films, a non-profit production company based in Chicago that promotes science through storytelling. (Another producer, Clayton Brown, couldn’t join us for the interview.) Their next project, currently in post-production, is called We Believe in Dinosaurs, all about Noah’s Ark, Creationism, and America’s troubled relationship with science. I spoke with them about Ken Ham‘s reaction to their project, whether Ark Encounter has led to an economic boom in the community it’s in, and why the word “Believe” is in the title of the film.

The Friendly Atheist -- 141: Ryan Mcknight, Founder Of MormonWikiLeaks

This past week saw the launch of a website called Mormon Wikileaks, a “safe, secure, and anonymous way to submit documents, videos, or any other information regarding the Church.” The site was created by Ryan McKnight, a former Mormon. I spoke with Ryan about why he left the Mormon Church, why he hopes to achieve by exposing the Church’s secrets, and what the ultimate secret would be.


How the Atheist Stole Christmas - The Atheist Experience #762

This Atheist caller has a five month old Baby. He wants some advice on raising children without Religion. He states he's not raising an Atheist, but a free thinker. He asks specifically about Christmas. He wants to know if it's wrong for Atheists to still celebrate Christmas or is it a kind of hypocrisy?

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