Category: atheism

‘Queer Disbelief’ pairs atheists and LGBTQ communities as allies

By Kimberly Winston

(RNS) — American atheists and other nonbelievers have long acknowledged the debt they owe in their fight for equality to the gay and lesbian community, which began its struggle for the same in the 1960s (and in turn acknowledged its debt to African-Americans).

In her new book “Queer Disbelief: Why LGBTQ Equality Is an Atheist Issue,” queer activist and atheist Camille Beredjick calls for an alliance between those who do not believe in God and those who identify as LGBTQ based on their mutual goals of respect and acceptance.

She spoke with Religion News Service about why these two groups have more in common than they generally acknowledge and how they can work together. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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The NHS’s new humanist chaplain is a welcome sign of our shifting spirituality

By Andrew Brown

The appointment of 28-year-old Lindsay van Dijk as a humanist chaplain at the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS trust, leading a team of three Christians, is a rather overdue acknowledgment of the changing religious nature of Britain. It should also make us think about the nature and function of religion, and how little this has to do with belief. Humanism is increasingly the default position in England when people don’t want to think about theology or religious questions. It has replaced “C of E” as the translation of a muffled “don’t know” in questions about religious identity. It’s not the same as atheism, which implies a much sharper-edged conception of identity.

Humanists, you might say, don’t believe in God but think it’s rude to say so, just as traditional Anglicans did believe in God but thought it rude to talk about Him. It can be difficult to tell the difference in practice. Humanists and C of E congregants are both nice people, who believe in the value of decency – but humanists are likely the children or grandchildren of Anglicans. It’s seldom the other way round.

The reason this shift doesn’t much diminish the amount of spirituality in the world is that religions are not really about belief at all. They are about identity, morality and myths. Because we imagine that religions proceed from doctrine to practice, we tend entirely to misunderstand the way that they work. In fact we get it precisely backwards. Religions become incredible not as a result of scientific progress, but because the small, taken-for-granted habits and rituals that sustain them fall out of use. But the human needs that sustained them remain.

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Iraqi courts seeking out atheists for prosecution

By Omar al-Jaffal

Arrest warrants have been issued for four Iraqis on atheism charges, according to Dhi Qar province’s Garraf district judiciary. The announcement garnered quite a reaction on media and social networks, as some say these hunts infringe on the rights of the Iraqi people, whose constitution guarantees them freedom of belief and expression. Other observers say the campaign has political aspects.

Dhidan al-Ekili, the chief Garraf judge, told local Iraqi newspapers March 11 that security forces had been able to arrest one of the four indicted, as the search for the remaining three continued. Ekili said they are being pursued for “holding seminars during social gatherings to promote the idea of the nonexistence of God and to spread and popularize atheism.”

According to Ekili, the local court administration has tasked intelligence agencies with cracking down on the “atheism phenomenon.” Ekili said the crackdown is in accordance with the Iraqi Penal Code.

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Judge to North Carolina Prisons: Humanism Is a Faith Group

By Gary D. Robinson

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina prison system must recognize humanism as a faith group and allow its adherents behind bars to meet and study their beliefs, a federal judge has ruled in an order released Thursday.

The American Humanist Association and a North Carolina inmate serving a life sentence for murder sued state Department of Public Safety officials in 2015. They accused prison leaders of violating the religious establishment and equal protection clauses of the Constitution by repeatedly denying recognition the requests of the inmate, Kwame Jamal Teague.

In the order, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle wrote that prison officials failed to justify treating humanism differently from those religions that are recognized behind bars. Boyle also ordered the state to adjust its computer system so prisoners who declare themselves humanists can be registered under that group.

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Here’s why atheists have to fight for their rights

By Greta Christina

“You atheists are just taking on the mantle of victimhood. There are laws protecting you — especially the First Amendment. Therefore, you’re not really discriminated against. And it’s ridiculous for you to claim that you are.”

Atheist activists get this one a lot. When we speak out about ways that anti-atheist bigotry plays out, we’re told that we’re not really oppressed. We’re told that, because we have legal protection, because anti-atheist discrimination is illegal, therefore we don’t really have any problems, and we’re just trying to gain unearned sympathy and win the victim Olympics. (I’d love to hear Bob Costas do the commentary for that!) It’s a classic Catch-22: If we speak out about oppression and point to examples of it, we’re accused of “playing the victim card,” and the oppression becomes invisible. And if we don’t speak out about oppression … then the oppression once again becomes invisible.

If you’ve ever made this “discrimination against atheists is against the law” argument, I have some really bad news for you. You may want to sit down for this, it may come as a shock:

People sometimes break the law.

Theft is against the law — but people sometimes steal. Bribery is against the law — but people sometimes bribe other people. Arson is against the law — but people sometimes set buildings on fire.

Anti-atheist discrimination is against the law; in the United States, anyway. But people still sometimes discriminate against atheists.

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Richard Dawkins to give away copies of The God Delusion in Islamic countries

By Alison Flood

Richard Dawkins is responding to what he called the “stirring towards atheism” in some Islamic countries with a programme to make free downloads of his books available in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and Indonesian.

The scientist and atheist said he was “greatly encouraged” to learn that the unofficial Arabic pdf of the book had been downloaded 13m times. Dawkins writes in The God Delusion about his wish that the “open-minded people” who read it will “break free of the vice of religion altogether”. It has sold 3.3m copies worldwide since it was published in 2006 – far fewer than the number of Arabic copies that Dawkins believes to have been downloaded illegally.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science recently merged with the Washington DC-based Center for Inquiry. Dawkins said the CFI decided on “a more systematic programme” of translating his work in ebook form following “stirrings toward atheism in Iran and other Islamic countries”. It will be the first time his work has been made available in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and other languages of Islamic countries.

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Christian leaders say they aren’t fazed by atheists’ metro gathering

By Carla Hinton

Holy Week and Easter Sunday in the Oklahoma City metro area will not be tarnished by a national gathering of atheists, several Christian leaders said recently.

“We ought not to be threatened by people who don’t believe,” said the Rev. A. Byron Coleman, senior pastor of Fifth Street Missionary Baptist Church, 801 NE 5.

“It doesn’t reshape the narrative of the Christian Church to have an atheist convention coming to town. We’re still going to have Resurrection Sunday and we’re still going to eat ham after church.”

The Rev. Randy Faulkner, senior pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, 7201 W Britton Road, shared a similar view.

“Their presence in our city will not in any way diminish our joy in celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus,” he said.

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‘Christianity as default is gone’: the rise of a non-Christian Europe

By Harriet Sherwood

Europe’s march towards a post-Christian society has been starkly illustrated by research showing a majority of young people in a dozen countries do not follow a religion.

The survey of 16- to 29-year-olds found the Czech Republic is the least religious country in Europe, with 91% of that age group saying they have no religious affiliation. Between 70% and 80% of young adults in Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands also categorise themselves as non-religious.

The most religious country is Poland, where 17% of young adults define themselves as non-religious, followed by Lithuania with 25%.

In the UK, only 7% of young adults identify as Anglican, fewer than the 10% who categorize themselves as Catholic. Young Muslims, at 6%, are on the brink of overtaking those who consider themselves part of the country’s established church.

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The number of ex-Muslims in America is rising

By The Economist

AS SOON as he stepped off the plane on a family holiday to Kenya, Mahad Olad knew something was wrong. His mother, a “very devout, very conservative, very Wahhabi” woman, was acting strangely—furtively taking phone calls when she thought he was out of earshot. His suspicions would soon be proved correct. Mr Olad’s family, Somali immigrants to America and devout Muslims, had discovered that he had not only renounced Islam but was also gay. The holiday was a ruse, an intervention to save his soul.

Mr Olad was told he would leave college and be turned over the next day to the care of Muslim clerics who would restore his faith. “I was aware of the horrors of these camps,” Mr Olad says. “They operate them in the middle of nowhere, where you cannot escape. They subject you to beatings, starvation and trampling.” He tried to contact the American embassy, but it could not send help because of recent terrorist attacks nearby. Luckily, he also managed to reach a Kenyan atheist group. In the dead of night he sneaked into his mother’s room, stole his passport and was whisked away by taxi to the embassy, which eventually returned him safely to America. He has not spoken to his family since.

Though few have such harrowing stories, hundreds of thousands of American Muslims might recognise something like their own experience in Mr Olad’s tale. As the number of American Muslims has increased by almost 50% in the past decade, so too has the number of ex-Muslims. According to the Pew Research Centre, 23% of Americans raised as Muslims no longer identify with the faith. Most of them are young second-generation immigrants who have come to reject the religion of their parents. Some, however, are older when their crisis of faith arrives, already married to devout Muslim spouses and driving children to the mosque to study the Koran at weekends.

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When Will Non-Religious Americans Finally Become an Effective Voting Bloc?

By Rick Snedeker

Even though Americans unaffiliated with any religion now make up nearly a quarter of the United States’ population, our political influence is disproportionately slight and likely could remain underpowered for a good while.

The problem is that “Nones,” as demographers call us, are a surprisingly disparate group whose fragmented nature undermines developing the unity and interconnectivity necessary for an effective national political base. And we apparently aren’t big voters, either.

In 2016, even though Nones represented 21% of registered voters, we comprised only 15% of those actually casting a ballot, according to thr Pew Research Center and nationwide exit poll data.

Nonetheless, secular activists are intent on turning around that voter apathy starting with this fall’s midterm elections, a first step in hopefully making non-religious people a prominent, powerful voting bloc.

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