Category: atheism

The ‘Underground Railroad’ To Save Atheists

By David Robson

Lubna Yaseen was a student in Baghdad when death threats forced her into exile. Her crime was to think the unthinkable and question the unquestionable—to state, openly, that she was an atheist.

Growing up in Hillah, a city in central Iraq, she developed an independent mind at a young age. “My mother is an atheist intellectual person, and she brought up me and my siblings to think for ourselves and to be open to anything,” she told me. Yaseen was particularly concerned about her teachers’ attitudes toward women. “I always asked why girls should wear a hijab and boys are not obligated to do so,” she said. Why would “God” treat the two sexes differently? She quickly learned the dangers of expressing these views: Her teachers often threw her out of their classes, and sometimes beat her.

In 2006, when Yaseen and her mother were driving home one day, al-Qaeda militants pulled them over and threatened to kill them for not wearing the hijab. Still, Yaseen’s desire to explore secular thinking grew at university. “I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Whenever there was a conversation, I talked.” She started handing out leaflets on Mutanabbi Street, the heart of Baghdad’s intellectual life, and wrote about her atheist beliefs on Facebook. Her activism attracted further threats from fellow students and local Islamist militia groups, but she was determined to continue. “I believed in my rights to be who I am,” she said.

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An Atheist’s Invocation Request is Met With Cry of “Fake News” in FL

By Hemant Mehta

On Thursday, atheist Joseph Richardson spoke during a meeting of the Winter Garden City Commission in Florida as part of his effort to deliver a secular invocation.

He’s been trying to do this for years… with no luck. (Another atheist delivered an invocation in Winter Garden once, in 2015, but the commissioner who invited him won’t invite Richardson for some reason.)

In his brief address to the Commission, Richardson gave examples of recent secular invocations (or policy changes) that went off without a hitch, and the commissioners listened, but nothing happened.

The reason I mention this is because of what happened at the end of his speech:

In the last few seconds of that video, just after Richardson finishes his plea to include secular voices in the invocation rotation, a woman in the audience yells out “Fake news!”

No one on the commission reprimanded that woman.

No one even said anything against it. They just asked if anyone else wanted to make a public comment.

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Can you be good without God? Boy Scouts face the question

By Katherine Burgess

In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America rescinded its ban on gay members. Two years later, it voted to allow gay adults in leadership.

By 2017, the scouts announced that transgender boys would be allowed to join. And in October, the scouts announced that girls can become members.

The one group still excluded by the Boy Scouts? People who don’t believe in God.

“That was a cornerstone to growing developmentally as youth do, that they need to have a belief in a higher power,” said Brian Nastase, scout executive for the area Quivira Council. “And a belief in God means we are open to all faiths. We have Jewish scouts, we have Muslim scouts, Christian scouts, Buddhist scouts. It’s probably the most diverse organization in the city of Wichita, maybe even the country.”

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Being An Atheist Shows You That Every Minute Is Sacred

By Lianna Brinded

My father died when I was 21, and I was devastated to realize what he’d miss seeing. He’d never see the bulbs he planted that year bloom into flowers. He’d never see me flourish in my career. He’d never walk me down the aisle at my wedding.

As an atheist, I knew that was it. My father wasn’t looking down upon me from some cushy cloud, with harp music in the background. I could take no comfort in belief in an afterlife, or the notion that life on earth is just a journey towards some spiritual payoff in another dimension. I’m pretty convinced that what we do here and now is all that we get.

His death only strengthened my belief—which was also his—that every second, minute, hour, and day is sacred.

From a young age, I knew I was an atheist. Having seen no scientific evidence of a higher celestial being to change my mind, I have remained an atheist to this day.

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Egypt’s parliament in bid to ban atheism

By Shahira Amin

Egyptian security forces arrested Ibrahim Khalil, a 29-year-old computer science graduate, on Dec. 21, and prosecutors at the Dokki police station later interrogated him for five hours on accusations of “defaming religion.” He was ordered detained pending further investigations.

Khalil, who comes from a Christian family, is also accused of “administering a Facebook page that promotes atheism.”

“The Facebook page has been used to distort, defame and exploit the Quran. It was also found to contain comments questioning the existence of God,” chief of the Dokki prosecution office Hassan Ali was quoted as saying by the privately owned Youm7.

“During his interrogation by prosecutors, Khalil confessed to being an atheist and to creating the Facebook page to share his views on religion,” according to Youm7.

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Bangladeshi Atheist Blogger Faces Up To 14 Years for Hurting “Religious Feelings”

By David G. McAfee

An atheist blogger in Bangladesh was arrested at an airport on Monday, and he could get up to 14 years in prison because he “hurt religious feelings” with his social media posts criticizing Islam.

Immigration police detained 25-year-old blogger Asaduzzaman Noor, known as Asad Noor on Facebook and YouTube, at the Dhaka airport on Monday. Inspector Mohammad Shahidullah said hundreds of Muslims had staged demonstrations against Noor, which apparently is cause for prison time there.

‘The charge against him is that he hurt religious feeling[s] by mocking Prophet Mohammed and made bad comments against Islam, the prophet and the Koran on Facebook and YouTube,’ he said.

Noor is now facing up to 14 years in prison because a group of people were upset by his religious criticisms and rhetoric online. If I was arrested every time I offended some religious people, I wouldn’t be able to write this right now.

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Egypt Reportedly Set to Pass Law Criminalizing Atheism

By Hemant Mehta

We’ve known for a long time now that Egypt is not a safe country for atheists. People who have said publicly that they’re atheists, like Karim al-Banna and Alber Saber, have received prison sentences of up to three years for the crime of “blasphemy” or religious contempt.

In 2014, government officials said (in an eerily specific way) that there were exactly 866 atheists in the country. It was a way of suggesting they knew who the people were and that the number was getting lower all the time. But in a country of nearly 95 million people, there’s no way that number was even close to accurate. Estimates put the true number anywhere from two million to four million.

Still, over the past few years, atheism itself wasn’t a crime. You only broke the law if you promoted it publicly. That’s why managing a Facebook group for atheists or criticizing Islam put those activists in the government’s crosshairs. That’s also why millions of potential atheists were rounded down to under 1,000: They knew it was safer to remain in the closet.

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Sundays at the Altar of Science

By Thomas Hooven, M.D.

“I think it’s sad that you feel like you’re alone in the universe,” my mom recently said to me.

We were talking about the fact that I’m an atheist. Unspoken but understood was her dismay that my son and daughter aren’t religious, either. At ages 6 and 3, I’m not sure they’ve ever heard of God.

I was raised differently.

When I was growing up, my family attended a Protestant church in our small Connecticut town. On scarlet velvet pew cushions, I sang hymns and read scripture. In Sunday school, I imagined a God who knew everything about me and everything else.

I believed in biblical miracles: stories of walking on water, talking bushes and multiplying loaves of bread. These tales injected the possibility of imminent magic into my childhood. I assumed they were true because our white-haired minister told them with the same sincerity with which he praised honesty, generosity and other earnest virtues.

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Atheists File Discrimination Complaint Against Wyoming Department of Corrections

By Hemant Mehta

A new complaint filed by the American Humanist Association on behalf of inmates including JonMichael Guy says that the Wyoming Department of Corrections is discriminating against Humanist prisoners by not giving them the same perks and privileges afforded to prisoners with religious beliefs.

While people of faith are allowed to gather, study, and discuss their views, the atheists aren’t given the same opportunity (despite requesting it). That’s because the Department doesn’t even recognize “Humanism” as a valid “Faith Group.”

“The Department’s disparate treatment of Humanist inmates violates decades of clearly established legal precedent,” said David Niose, Legal Director at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “The Supreme Court has long held that Secular Humanism, and even atheism, must be treated as equivalent to religion for First Amendment purposes.”

The AHA won a similar case against federal prisons in 2015, but that ruling doesn’t apply here because it’s a state-run facility.

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How Richard Dawkins Will Win You Over to His Side

Many people would like to have a one-on-one argument with renowned professor, author, and all-around big thinker Richard Dawkins. He’s most one of the world’s most prominent public intellectuals and has written over a dozen books on matters as wide-ranging as atheism and science. Because he attacks such deeply held beliefs, many people disagree with him. But how is he so effective at what he does? Simple. He imagines his argument from the other side’s perspective. That way, Richard Dawkins posits, there’s a much higher chance that he can land his point. Richard Dawkins’ new book is Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.

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