Category: atheism

Teaching Children To Ask The Big Questions Without Religion

By Deena Prichep

Emily Freeman, a writer in Montana, grew up unaffiliated to a religion — culturally Jewish on her father’s side, a smattering of churchgoing on her mother’s. She and her husband Nathan Freeman talked about not identifying as religious — but they didn’t really discuss how it would affect their parenting.

“I think we put it in the big basket of things that we figured we had so much time to think about,” Emily joked.

But then they had kids, and the kids came home from their grandfather’s house talking about Bible stories.

Nathan acknowledges that this came from a good place, and his father was acting in concern. “He feels like these lessons encapsulate a blueprint for how to move through life. And so of course, why wouldn’t we want our children to have those lessons alongside them as they travel through the world?”

But while Nathan and Emily wanted their kids to learn about love and compassion, they didn’t want them to hear Bible stories. When the boys were so young, the certainty of those stories felt like indoctrination.

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When Leaving Your Religion Means Losing Your Children

By Samantha Raphelson

Chavie Weisberger was raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey, N.Y., and was forced to marry a man she barely knew when she was 19. The couple had three children, but when she began to question her faith and sexuality, she and her husband divorced – and she almost lost her children.

The case is highlighting how New York courts handle divorce and custody issues for the state’s large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. While Weisberger’s case was reversed on appeal last August – she has now regained full custody of her children – it brings to light the issues that arise when secular courts decide child custody in the religious community.

People who leave the Hasidic community are often shunned by their family and friends, but they also are often forced to fight for their children, says Lani Santo, executive director of Footsteps, a social services organization that provides social and financial services for those transitioning to a secular lifestyle.

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Atheist Poet and Publisher Shahzahan Bachchu Shot Dead in Bangladesh

By Hemant Mehta

According to disturbing reports out of Bangladesh, atheist poet and publisher Shahzahan Bachchu was shot to death today in the town of Kakaldi.

There were five assailants on two motorcycles, the [Superintendent of Police Jayedul Alam] said.

Shahzahan had gone to meet friends at a pharmacy near his home before iftar, when the assailants came into the area. They blasted a crude bomb outside the pharmacy, creating panic.

They then dragged Shahzahan out and shot him, Jayedul said.

Bachchu had been the publisher at Bishaka Prokashoni (Star Publishers) and a former leader within the Communist Party of Bangladesh. The motive and the attackers are unknown as of this writing. But as we know all too well, a number of public atheists in Bangladesh have been slain over the past few years. There had been a lull in the killings for well over a year, but that ended today.

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The Only Openly Non-Religious Member of Congress Easily Won His Primary

By Hemant Mehta

This wasn’t one of the races anyone was paying close attention to last night, but I think it still merits mention.

In California’s 2nd congressional district, Rep. Jared Huffman, the only openly non-theistic member of Congress, coasted through his top-two-advance-to-November primary. He’ll face Republican Dale Mensing in what should be a (thankfully) uneventful race.

What’s notable is that this is the first election Huffman has been in since coming out as a humanist last November, and it’s obvious that his announcement didn’t affect his re-election campaign one bit.

When he was thinking about declaring himself a humanist last year, the Washington Post reported that, while the private responses he received were overwhelmingly positive, there was one friend who thought it was a bad idea because “it could hurt him politically.”

It didn’t hurt him politically.

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Atheists Are Sometimes More Religious Than Christians

By Sigal Samuel

Americans are deeply religious people—and atheists are no exception. Western Europeans are deeply secular people—and Christians are no exception.

These twin statements are generalizations, but they capture the essence of a fascinating finding in a new study about Christian identity in Western Europe. By surveying almost 25,000 people in 15 countries in the region, and comparing the results with data previously gathered in the U.S., the Pew Research Center discovered three things.

First, researchers confirmed the widely known fact that, overall, Americans are much more religious than Western Europeans. They gauged religious commitment using standard questions, including “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”

Second, the researchers found that American “nones”—those who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular—are more religious than European nones. The notion that religiously unaffiliated people can be religious at all may seem contradictory, but if you disaffiliate from organized religion it does not necessarily mean you’ve sworn off belief in God, say, or prayer.

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I Am Now the Plaintiff in a Lawsuit Over Secular Celebrants

By Ed Brayton

I am now one of two plaintiffs in a lawsuit we filed yesterday in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Michigan. That suit seeks to force the state of Michigan to allow humanist secular celebrants like me (certified and everything) to officiate and solemnize weddings for those who want such an officiant.

This case has been in the works for a long time. We have lobbied the state legislature for three years to change the law but have gotten absolutely nowhere with it. Our state legislature is controlled by Republicans, who have a supermajority in both houses, and no one wants to touch such a bill. So we are taking the legal route, following the blueprint that worked in Illinois and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals a few years ago. The district and appeals courts in that case forced the states of that circuit — Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin — to recognize secular celebrants as having the same authority to solemnize marriages as the clergy of any faith automatically have under the law.

As I said in the press release we sent out about the suit, I think that secular-minded people in the state should have their wishes respected in terms of the person they’d like to officiate important rituals like weddings and funerals and I look forward to being able to provide that for them when this suit is finished. I have gone through the process of being certified as a secular celebrant by the Center for Inquiry. My co-plaintiff in the case is my dear friend Jennifer Beahan, who is the Executive Director of CFI-Michigan.

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Godless choir mixes fellowship with a full-throated defense of atheism

By Heather Adams

LOS ANGELES — Eight years ago, Amanda MacLean enrolled for a singing course at Santiago Canyon College, a community college where she worked in Orange, Calif. All students were required to sing together as a choir. She was surprised when she found that the mandatory sessions not only included hymns but performances at religious events.

After singing at the City of Orange’s Christmas tree lighting three years in a row, she couldn’t stand it anymore. She went online to find herself an atheist choir.

“I knew there had to be nonbelievers out there who felt like I did, who had no place to sing without being forced to sing about Jesus,” said MacLean, now 40 and an administrative assistant at the J. Paul Getty Museum here. “I actually thought atheist choirs were a thing.”

They were and they weren’t. MacLean’s search led her to Bobbie Kirkhart, whose home near Dodger Stadium in Angelino Heights is familiarly known as Heretic House. In 2001, Kirkhart had co-founded the Voices of Reason with a fellow nonbeliever named Michael Jordan. Three years later, after Jordan’s death, Voices of Reason had disbanded.

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MIT Now Has a Humanist Chaplain to Help Students With the Ethics of Tech

By Isabel Fattal

Even some of the most powerful tech companies start out tiny, with a young innovator daydreaming about creating the next big thing. As today’s tech firms receive increased moral scrutiny, it raises a question about tomorrow’s: Is that young person thinking about the tremendous ethical responsibility they’d be taking on if their dream comes true?

Greg Epstein, the recently appointed humanist chaplain at MIT, sees his new role as key to helping such entrepreneurial students think through the ethical ramifications of their work. As many college students continue to move away from organized religion, some universities have appointed secular chaplains like Epstein to help non-religious students lead ethical, meaningful lives. At MIT, Epstein plans to spark conversations about the ethics of technology—conversations that will sometimes involve religious groups on campus, and that may sometimes carry over to Harvard, where he has held (and will continue to hold) the same position since 2005.

I recently spoke with Epstein about how young people can think ethically about going into the tech industry and what his role will look like. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

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Americans With No Religion Greatly Outnumber White Evangelicals

By Ed Kilgore

It’s relatively well-known that the portion of the U.S. population with no religious affiliation has been steadily increasing recently. And for those paying attention to research, it’s also been obvious for a while that conservative evangelicals were beginning to lose “market share” after years of mocking their mainline Protestant cousins of “dying” because of insufficiently rigorous theology and moral strictures.

But now comes a new set of data from years of polling by ABC News and the Washington Post that puts these trends together in a way that might bust some old preconceptions. Between 2003 and 2017, the percentage of adult Americans professing “no religion” grew from 12 percent to 21 percent. And at the same time, the portion of the population made up by white evangelicals dropped from 21 percent to 13 percent. Indeed, the white evangelical population dropped even faster than the white non-evangelical population (which shrank from 17 percent to 11 percent), and the two groups are converging in size.

Among younger Americans, the trends are even starker. In 2003, only 19 percent of adults under 30 professed “no religion.” That percent rose to 35 percent in 2017. That’s compared to only 22 percent who identify with any sort of Protestantism.

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Egypt authorities arrest atheist blogger

[Webmaster’s note: Sherif Gaber announced on Twitter yesterday that he is now free, but “details will follow.”]

By AFP

CAIRO — Egyptian police have arrested an atheist blogger who was previously detained for promoting his views, a rights lawyer said on Saturday.

Sherif Gaber was in police custody on Saturday and set to be questioned by the prosecution on Sunday, Gamal Eid, head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told AFP.

“He has been arrested and should be questioned tomorrow,” Eid said.

It was not immediately clear when Gaber was arrested.

In late March, Gaber tweeted that “some Muslim lawyers” filed a complaint against him with the attorney general.

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