Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Friday, 2 October 2015

Discussion: "Not Just Another Niqab and Burka Article"

Niqabs, hijabs, chadors, and burkas seem to be in the news again as the election heats up. To be honest, I've tended to avoid this issue. I wish we would just start taxing churches, temples and mosques indiscriminately like any other building.

This said, I'm okay with face revealing chadors and hijabs when government ID is required, but niqabs and burkas would require that either the State hire special female face checkers or else some form of reasonable accommodation by the women themselves to the State by revealing their faces.

And naturally, any judgement here would need to also apply to Pastafarians! They wear headgear more revealing than all four of the above and is worn for religious reasons and yet it is not allowed! Why?

I will soon have Eiynah Nicemangos onto the podcast who has some strong feelings regarding this issue.

Another person with opinions on this is fellow Canadian Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass. She has published an interesting article over at the Atheist Freethinkers blog.

Abbass sent me some background on the blog. Atheist Freethinkers/Libres penseurs athées (AFT/LPA) is a fully bilingual (French & English) organization based in Montreal, Quebec committed to “reason, knowledge and the material, intellectual and moral advancement of humanity.” AFT/LPA’s raisons d'être are to “promote secularism and reject any religious involvement in civil institutions.”

From Abbass’ latest article, “Not Just Another Niqab and Burka Article,”:
Raheel Raza’s Toronto Sun article “Ban niqab, burka in all public places” and reprinted in Huffington Post Canada as “As a Muslim, I Think Canada Should Ban the Niqab and Burka in Public” is extremely annoying.
Go give it a read to find out why Abbass finds Raheel Raza’s article “annoying.” Then let the discussion begin.

Read and sign the Atheist Manifesto and join AFT/LPA.

Be counted: Sign Atheist Census Canada and the Atheist Alliance International Atheist Census.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Free Streaming of New Documentary About Christianity's Obsession with Sex & Purity

Not a scene from the movie, but I found it strangely fitting.
Have you ever noticed that the more fundamentalist and conservative the Christians, the more obsessed they appear to be about sex? It seems to range from remaining chaste before marriage to marrying Jesus and remaining chaste for the rest of their lives. It seems like sex is a really big deal for Christians.

No Sex Please, We're Purity Nuts.

So, there's a really interesting movie that's going to be available for free streaming over at Vimeo, tomorrow: Give Me Sex Jesus (@GiveMeSexJesus).
Give Me Sex Jesus tells six personal stories of struggle from within the Evangelical community to remain sexually pure until marriage. But what happens when our bodies and desires do not behave?

A handsome couple saves their first kiss for the altar; a gay son comes out to his famous family; a transgender man searches for authenticity; and a feminist confronts double standards. While the control of desire is universal, the salvation of these people depends upon it.

Since the 1990s, the Purity Movement has been at the center of a national conversation about sexuality that extends from the pew into the Oval Office. Give Me Sex Jesus invites you into the pleasure, shame, and humor at the intersection of faith and sex in America.
It's is a production of Side Hug Films and is produced and directed by Matt Barber and produced and written by Brittany Machado (@BrittLynnMach). It comes as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign launched in 2012 and completed in 2014. (This last point answers my own question about why the movie is being released for free.)

According to the press kit, the film will contain taped interviews from a wide array of people - both pro sexual purity and con.
Interviewees include Dr. Richard Ross (founder of the Purity Movement, True Love Waits), Stephanie Drury (Stuff Christian Culture Likes), Chris Bright (grandson of founder, Campus Crusade for Christ), and Dr. Amy DeRogatis (author, Saving Sex). Personal stories include a couple who saved their first kiss for the altar; a gay son who came out to his famous family; a transgender man who searched for authenticity; a feminist who confronts sexual double standards; and more.
You can watch the trailer below.

Give Me Sex Jesus - 2015 TRAILER from Matt Barber on Vimeo.

The film's website even features a supportive from atheist blogger, Hemant Mehta:
They’re not pushing an agenda that says Christians are right or wrong. They’re only interested in telling the stories of people who grew up with these rules around them and explaining where this sex-negativity (my term, not theirs) comes from.
I found another short clip from the film on Vimeo which explores how purity has racial baggage in the United States due to its history of racial segregation and minority persecution.

Give Me Sex Jesus: The Impure History of Purity from Matt Barber on Vimeo.

Looks real interesting! So apparently if you go to the site, you can watch the movie tomorrow starting 6pm PST, for free.

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Number of 'Nones' Grow 1947% In Last Decade In Punjab India

You thought the Nones are the fastest growing 'religious' group here in America, but you haven't seen anything yet. This doesn't hold a candle to the growth of the non-religious in India - more specifically, in the northwestern state of Punjab.
But a break-up of religious census data has revealed that Punjabis who preferred to not specify their religion has witnessed a massive growth of 1947.17% in the last decade. There are around 87,000 Punjabi individuals, who have told enumerators during the decadal census exercise that they follow no religion. In 2001, number was just 4,468.
Of course, it's natural to believe that societal pressures may have prevented people from revealing their true metaphysical position in the past. 
"Surely, some people may have hidden their religious identity during enumeration but it appears that a large number of these individuals are nonbelievers," said Dr Harvinder Singh Bhatti, head of the department of sociology, Punjabi University, Patiala, who also heads the university's Centre for Census Studies and Research. "There is no suppressive factor on the ground at least in Punjab, which may dissuade thousands of individuals from revealing their religion."
Nationally, the growth of non-believers is at 400% in the last 10 years, which is also pretty amazing. It's also rather astonishing that in Punjab, the number is equally split between men and women  - which is not the case in North America.

It's also interesting to note that Punjab directly borders Pakistan, which is a very not good place for people to reveal their atheism.

Some have pointed out that 1947% also happens to be the same number as the year India gained its independance from the British Empire (1947). When asked about the coincidence, one person moderating the Indian Atheists Facebook page quipped:

Nopes. Not a coincidence. God planned it this way

Great news from India!

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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Virgin Mary and Jesus Appear In Window Pane - Clerics Move Window to Church

Why are these Ukrainian clerics carrying a window to their church? Why is everyone around them trying to touch the window and saying prayers to it and kneeling in front of it? It's because a picture of the Virgin Mary and Jesus appeared on the window!

Just take a look! It's so obvious! Checkmate, atheists!
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Obviously if you cannot see this, you are a complete moron, or some sort of atheist or something. I can't see anything. It just looks like glass to me.

The alleged appearance of Virgin Mary and baby Jesus in a window has seen dozens of faithful Christians flocking to a small village in Ukraine.

A double-glazed window had been put up during construction of a house in Beregovoy, western Ukraine, at which point the Virgin Mary 'appeared' on the pane. 

As devout Christians, locals took the image of Mary and Jesus as a sign, and began praying to the window. 
So they took the glass out and brought it to their church. They are not literally praying to the window.

Right, I just cannot see it. This is so ridiculous, I really have no words for it.

Two more non-existent made up things to worship!

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Monday, 7 September 2015

Ukrainian Bishop Refuses to Pay Traffic Violation Because: God

When will he harassment ever end? Just this weekend, a Ukrainian Orthodox bishop was minding his own business being chauffeured in his $100,000 Mercedes Benz, whereupon his driver happened to violate one of Kyiv's (Kiev) traffic laws.

So a traffic cop stopped him and was going to issue a ticket - or whatever they do there. Did he not get the memo? How could he persecute a man of God in such an egregious way? Did he not notice the fabulous robe and striking hat with flowing white scarf?
The police stopped the Mercedes Benz for a traffic violation in the Ukrainian capital over the weekend only to discover after stopping the car that the luxurious vehilce contained the high-ranking priest of Kyiv's Pechersk Lavra, Bishop Pavel.

The priest refused to acknowledge the offence committed by his driver, asking the patrol officer whether he had been in the church that day.

Bishop Pavel also said that the officer should think of his soul first and then ask questions, adding that the driver was not guilty because he was fulfilling the priest's order.
This pesky traffic laws are for the mere laity. Robe-wearing, big hat sporting clerics being chauffeured about in $100,000 cars are above the laws of Man.
After the police officer kept insisting that the driver had broken the law, Bishop Pavel said, "That's nothing, thank God," and ordered the driver to move.
Take that! Laws like that mean nothing because: GOD!

If I were the office, I would kindly drop the ticket in the mail and inform his holiness of whatever interest or penalty system is in place for delinquent payers. Of course, that's not going to happen in this case.

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Friday, 28 August 2015

Religious Zealots Have Begun Destroying 'Satanic' Art In Russia

This past year, I reported an opera being shut down after an Orthodox priest, who never bothered to watch it, complained. Then there was the Orthodox Jewish activist Dmitry Enteo and crew, who broke into a Moscow art exhibit they found blasphemous and caused $15,000 worth of damage.

The Moscow Times has a recent piece about this mob of religious thugs.
Visitors to the exhibit attempted to protect the works from the activists. One of the visitors, Lyudmila Dyagileva, called the activists "fanatics and extremists whose actions have nothing to do with faith and Christianity" in an interview with The Moscow Times.

"If they get away with it, it will send a message that you can do anything you want. It is a signal that you can destroy everything if the authorities do nothing," she said.

Enteo was detained briefly by the police on Friday before being promptly released the same evening.
Indeed the head of the presidential Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, drew a comparison between Enteo's group and ISIS, when it came to wholesale destruction of culture.

Well, on Wednesday, a century old St. Petersburg facade of the mythical devil Mephistopheles was dismantled in plain daylight and chucked into a garbage by a religiously motivated group posing as construction workers.
Local news outlets and social media users reported that the relief was removed from the building without explanation on Wednesday. According to one Facebook user, historian Dmitry Bratkin, the house was designed by 19th and early 20th century architect Alexander Lishnevsky.

"Naturally, the monument was under protection," Bratkin said. "Or had been. Fifteen minutes ago, Mephistopheles was knocked off the facade."

One resident of the building, Kirill Alexeyev, told independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta that "workers showed up at 10 in the morning, did not introduce themselves, and did not say who had sent them."

Instead, the workers asked the building's residents to move their cars away from the building to avoid being damaged by falling plaster, and then proceeded with the removal of Mephistopheles, Alexeyev said.
They they stuck it in the back of their truck and drove away. It was found in a dumpster not long afterward.

When asked, the workers said that the facade was dilapidated and that they would construct a new one in plaster - these were all apparently lies. No government agency nor the construction firm of a new Orthodox Russian church directly facing the facade claims to know anything about this.

What? Did I say this facade happens to face a new church?  Why yes I did. In fact, the crucifix had just been erected less than a week before the devil statue was busted up.
"A couple of days ago, a cross was placed on the roof of the church that is under construction across [the building]," Bratkin wrote on his Facebook page. "Yesterday, some sprightly people showed up and took photographs of the facade with the Mephistopheles, and today at 3 in the afternoon, a worker hung down from the roof and — whack, whack, whack."

Natalya Levina, another local woman, said her neighbors had spotted "people from the church" looking around and inquiring about the "demon," the Metro news agency reported.
Well, that's not suspicious at all.

A short while after the destruction, one Denis Gorchin, self-described former head of the St. Petersburg Cossack community - although they have disowned him - wrote a letter to a local news site explaining his religious motivations for destroying the statue.
Gorchin, the self-described former leader of the Cossacks, indicated he was motivated by religious reasons, though he insisted the Orthodox Church had no involvement in the attack, news portal reported, citing a letter it had received from them man.

However, he added in the letter: "Opposite the church there is a figure of the devil, which prevents the [Orthodox] cross from being placed, and so on," St. Petersburg's Fontanka news agency reported.

"We were outraged by the fact that this horrible legend, this outlandish story, has effectively become an attraction, a draw for tourists, has become a [matter of] pride, and we have open worship of the Satan," the letter was quoted as saying.

St. Petersburg Orthodox leader Father Konstantin "would never have dared. So we dared," the letter said. 
Yes, that's right! The statue had to go because there was a cross being erected! Note that this doesn't implicate church members, just this Gorchin guy who did the dirty work so to speak. Still, the Orthodox Russian church said they understood why such an action was done - way to not condemn the criminal act.
But a spokesman for the hugely powerful Russian Orthodox Church said the attack was an understandable reaction.

"It's possible to understand the culprit. As a believer, he finds images of a demon disgusting," Orthodox Church spokesman Roman Bagdasarov told pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia.

"Mephistopheles embodies evil in this world and this person decided to act, most likely, to kill Evil," he said.
Oddly, several media outlets have blamed this on right-wing or conservative groups, which appears to be nothing more than protecting religion.

This relief and much of the rest of the work by the architect, Lishnevsky, survived atheist Soviet Russia - only to be smashed to bits by religious fanatics.
Lishnevsky, the architect, died during World War II after being evacuated to a hospital in Yaroslavl — a historical city 250 kilometers to the northeast of Moscow. Much of his work survived the devastation of the was [sic: war] and the secular policies of the Soviet Union.
According to this story,  police have identified those responsible for the destruction. Yet, as with Dmitry Enteo, no criminal charges have been laid. It would seem that Lyudmila Dyagileva could be right after all - the message has been sent that it's open season in Russia now for any art which offends anyone's religious sensibilities.

Let the cultural cleansing begin.

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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Top Turkish Religious Body Warns Of "Spreading Religion of Jediism"

Please forgive me, dear readers. I've been so busy with Life and Humanity that I've neglected the noble art of blog writing. As I mentioned before, things are so busy that I'm having to go into shotgun mode, which means you'll get short rapid fire posts. They'll be thin but hopefully tasty, like ketchup potato chips.

It's been awhile since I've blogged about the situation in Turkey. I'll remind you that Islamic scholars and institutions there have, in the past, forbidden oral sex in advanced dimensions, rebuked a soap opera for showing too much lip-o-suction, replaced pictures of genitalia in a Biology text book with fluffy ducklings, and banned the Game of Thrones.

Well now the country's top religious body is sounding the alarm against a threat to Islam: Jediism!
In an article for the latest edition of the Directorate of Religious Affairs’ (Diyanet) monthly magazine, Marmara University Assistant Professor Bilal Yorulmaz has warned of the spreading new “religion” of Jediism - the religion of the Jedi warriors in the Star Wars series.
The good professor seems to liken the spread of Jediism to tooth decay. It's starting in the corrupt West ... Christendom.. and it could very well move into Islamic countries.
“Jediism … is spreading today in Christian societies. Around 70,000 people in Australia and 390,000 people in England currently define themselves as Jedis,” Yorulmaz wrote, before engaging in an Islamic-based critique of a number of Hollywood blockbusters.

He also slammed Turkish theatre and cinema producers over what he described as the “ill-minded” presentation of religious people as “bad characters” and also giving Islamic-themed names to unintelligent characters.
In fact, University students in Turkey have already demanded that Buddhist and Jedi temples be built on campus! Of course, this was very likely (mostly) a satirical protest against the government foisting Islam onto university campuses. Surely professor Bilal Yorulmaz realizes that. Right? Right?

I knew a big Star Wars fan awhile back. He seemed perfectly normal until the movie with Jar Jar Binks came out. Then he got very depressed.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Correction: Dubai 'Honour Drowning' Story Apparently Two Decades Old

Remember that story I posted about on Monday about the father who let his daughter drown rather than let any male lifeguards near her - to guard her honour?

One correction on that. It apparently happened twenty years ago.
Apparently the article – which originated on the website Emirates 24/7 – was from an interview in which lifeguards were asked to recount the strangest things that had happened to them. As someone who bothered to check out where it came from tells Monkey: “They mentioned this case of the Asian man who prevented his daughter’s rescue, but, and here’s the catch – it was from 1996.”
That's enough time past that I was not able to find a trace of the original story on the internet anywhere. However, this should have tipped me off from the original Emirates 24/7 story I trace it down to:
Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Lt. Col Ahmed Burqibah, Deputy Director of Dubai Police’s Search and Rescue Department, recounting some of the worst incidents he had encountered in his tenure, said that this incident took place at a beach in Dubai.
On some level, I was so eager to report that I missed out on this detail - which informs us that this likely happened sometime in the past, during Burqibah's career... maybe.

I wasn't the only one to fall for this.
The Mail, Telegraph, Metro and even Sky News all jumped on the story, which came via Agence France Press.
Still, I should have caught it and will try to be more diligent in the future!

Thanks so much to Facebook user Daniel Lynx Bernard for pointing me out to the story debunking this. I found another story echoing this as well.

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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Duggar Son-In-Law: "Believing in Evolution Is Totally Racist"

Jessa and Ben Seewald at Arby's. (source)
It's been awhile since we heard from any of the Duggars ever since their show got canceled. Remember that?

Hey, do you recall Jessa Seewald (née Duggar)? She posts all kinds of neat stuff like this and this. She also likes to post videos with her hubby Ben Seewald who does important "«research»" discovering that atheists don't actually exist!

Is this sufficient literary exposition? Are we all caught up now? Excellent! Let's take a look at this, then!

It's some advice from Ben and his buddy Dante Berry about how Christians should respond to racism. I think it has to do with not being racist (duh!) and not believing in evil, racist EVIL-ution... maybe? I don't know.

It goes something like this:
Lots of racism and stuff. Let's check the Bible at Mark 3... blah blah... 
That’s right, there’s no room for racism in Christianity. That all comes from the Devil. That all comes from, like, this false religion out here, evolution, that stuff? Teaching that, like, some people are ‘more evolved?' ... and stuff.”
The more I watch certain videos, the more I think that perhaps some people are more evolved. That would be rude though, so please strike it from the record.

I sort of follow what Dante is saying. Ben sort of confuses me. I do wish he would substitute words with actual meanings in place of whatever the hell that was.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Dubai Father Let Daughter Drown Rather than Allow Male Life Guards Near Her

2015-08-14: CORRECTION: It now appears this story may have actually taken place two decades ago.

My last post was about how the police in Bangladesh seemed more concerned about religious sentiment than the physical safety of freethinkers in the country. Well, here's an extremely infuriating story out of the United Arab Emirates about a father's religious sentiments undermining the very most basic human imperative of protecting one's own children.
A father of a 20-year-old girl let his daughter drown, stopping life guards from rescuing her.

He preferred that his daughter die rather than she be touched by a strange man, according to a top official.
That about sums it up - the rest are details. The only silver lining to the story is that this man has been arrested and charged.
“The father was a tall and strong man. He started pulling and preventing the rescue men and got violent with them. He told them that he prefers his daughter being dead than being touched by a strange man.”
This is religion killing people.

What kills me personally is thinking about what it must have been like for the woman.
“The kids were swimming in the beach when suddenly, the 20-year-old girl started drowning and screaming for help.
How horrendous it must have been in the final seconds - when she may have realized that her own father is actively killing her because she has breasts and ovaries.

Really, are these ideas worth dying for? It's so sad and revolting.

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Saturday, 25 July 2015

Religion Starting to Understand Climate Change... But It's Still Frustrating

I'm in a cranky mood today, so expect some kvetching over minor things. Take for example this piece by Bill McKibben, who is a excellent activist. I him support in his effort to get universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. This effort is so worthwhile, as it hits these companies where it hurts - the wallet and public image.

My nitpicking starts with the mere title of the piece: What religion can teach climate scientists.

More on this later. Take a look at the first two paragraphs.
Pope Francis’s remarkable encyclical, Laudato Si’, has been rightly hailed as a watershed moment in the climate debate, the moment when religion finally took note of what science had been saying for a couple of decades. As with all watersheds, though, the river at the bottom draws its power from all the creeks that feed in along the way — it’s worth remembering just how many people (a large number of them in Massachusetts) have worked over the years to build a true faith-based environmental movement. How they’ve managed to do it holds lessons for all of us trying to spread the word about climate change.

Twenty-five years ago, when this work was just getting started, there was nothing easy about it: In liberal churches and synagogues, environmentalism was considered slightly elitist, a task to be gotten to once the serious business of war and hunger had been dealt with. In conservative congregations, anything green was considered a depot on the track to paganism.
Can we all stop and ask why the Roman Catholic Church - the leader of which is apparently an infallible conduit for the word of God himself - is now finally tuning in to what scientists have been screaming, ever louder each year, for decades?

Then you have evangelicals who are still in denial against all evidence and reason. How many more decades can we afford to waste trying to drag them kicking and screaming into reality?

And after all of this... they will mark it proudly on flags and wave them about for everyone: we've always known that climate change is legit! In fact, it was the Christians and Christianity which was instrumental in the environmental movement. Praise Jesus.

It has been this way with slavery in the South and it will be so for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. It's good they are catching up, finally, but it's bloody aggravating.
In the end, it may be less the political power of faith communities that matters and more their ability to transform the bleak message of scientists into something that more people can hear. Faith-based environmentalists, after all, are allowed to have some hope that if they work hard, the world might meet them halfway.
Such is the problem with basing your environmentalism on faith rather than evidence and science - you'll remain obstinately behind the times - perhaps with fatal results for our species and thousands of others on this planet.

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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Damon Linker Thinks Progressives Should Fight For Church Tax Exemption, Because: "Freedom" of Religion

So Damon Linker is back. He just wrote something about how taxing churches is a form of religious persecution.

Are Christians being thrown into prison or having their heads chopped off in the United States? No. Churches may be forced to pay taxes like everyone else! Persecution!
Maybe such moves wouldn't be made against churches themselves. But it would be foolish to presume it couldn't or won't happen. Once the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage is combined with laws banning discrimination against homosexuals — which already exist in well over a dozen states and are coming soon at the federal level — the case for eliminating religious tax exemptions could be powerful. And of course all of this will take place against a cultural backdrop of rapid secularization that could well produce a demographically driven sea change in the nation's attitudes toward churches and other religious institutions. Just because the United States has a long history of deference to religion doesn't mean it will continue indefinitely.
Deference to religion means religious privilege. Linker, who's argued in the past that atheism cannot explain self-sacrifice and offered us atheists advice on how to be honest, is now advising us - and progressives - to defend this tax exemption -- for our own well-being, of course.

He first drags out the argument that churches get this exemption because these organizations do so much for the community. I would concede that this is certainly true for some churches, but with it comes the promotion of religion - and the government is ultimately left to decide what qualifies as religion. Furthermore, as I've seen with a nearby church and Mark Oppenheimer writes, a church's lack of property taxes will be made up by other businesses and private individuals footing their bill.
Indeed, many clergy have mid-six-figure salaries — many university presidents, seven-figure salaries — and the IRS doesn’t trouble their tax-exempt status. And many churches and synagogues sit on exceedingly valuable tracts of land (walk up and down Fifth Avenue to see what I mean). The property taxes they aren’t paying have to be drawn from business owners and private citizens — in a real sense, you and I are subsidizing Mormon temples, Muslims mosques, Methodist churches.
It's really this next line of reasoning from Linker that gets me though.
But of course the First Amendment doesn't just preclude a religious establishment. It also protects religious "free exercise," and it is on those grounds that the elimination of tax exemptions for churches should be opposed by all Americans, liberal and conservative alike.
You know, free exercise as in FREE. Linker goes on to develop the idea that churches are operating on such tight margins, they would be destroyed if they had to pay taxes, with or without tithes, so I'm not 100% sure where he was going with these ironic quotation marks. It does suggest to me, though, that this could have been a little clever wordplay.

He then ends the whole thing on a completely bizarre note.
To which some liberals may be inclined to respond: "You bet it is — and rightly so! Why on Earth should the government be making special provisions to protect institutions that openly advocate discrimination against a category of American citizens?"
Why on earth, indeed? Furthermore, it matters not whether the church is full of bigots or not, if they are on a property they should be paying their property taxes.

Linker tells us that if churches are taxed - presumably because they wish to discriminate against LGBT people - then they will lose their freedom. Organizations that cannot afford to pay their taxes are not free. Presumably, they will not be able to spew forth their disdain for marriage equality for free. Then, apparently, religious freedom is over because churches cannot behave like bigots and then our entire liberal society is dead.
If we forbid religions to discriminate — or empower the government to regulate how and against which behaviors a church is permitted to discriminate — we will have effectively ended religious freedom.

Are liberals really prepared to begin treating such bedrock religious tendencies — tendencies that go back to the beginnings of human culture and lie at the foundation of every civilization ever known — as beyond the bounds of acceptable thought and behavior? And to use state power to stamp them out?
We don't want churches who condemn same-sex marriage to not be able to afford their buildings! That would be terrible! I wonder if there were arguments like this from racist white churches after abolition of slavery?

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Sunday, 12 July 2015

South African Congregation Stripping, Eating Frogs & Hair Weaves

A girl eats another congregant's hair weave. 
So there's this church in South Africa which appears to be full of people suffering from pica - or at least suffering from an extreme religion-induced disconnection from reality.

Penuel Mnguni, self-described prophet, ministers to End Times Disciples Ministries and appears to get thrills from convincing his flock to do all kinds of crazy things -- and he's apparently young and charismatic enough to pull this off.

Back in May, he convinced everyone to pray... and strip.
Penuel said people condemn him because only the wicked see the naked part of a person. He said there is no shame in nakedness if one really believes in the living God.

“At first it seemed as if the people could handle it,” said a member of the church.

“But as the preacher spoke the heat increased until it was burning hot and they took off their clothes.”

The source said as men and women were stripping down, the church prophet kept telling them: “God is with us, and to God be the glory!”
More recently, he convinced his followers to cut a hair weave right off one woman's head and chow down on it -- without any seasoning at all!
In the pictures we obtained from the church's Facebook page, you can see the pastor Prophet Penuel Mnguni of the End Times Disciples Ministries laying his hands on the woman and some women holding the hair in their hands and shoving some in their mouths.

The pictures carry the caption "Man of God held the head of woman of God Thapelo from Mabopane and her hair turned into food for the sons and daughters of God to eat. Everything depends on what we say because we carry life in our tongue."
You can see them eating what appear to be small pieces of cloth, small frogs and what appear to be lizards (and perhaps a snake too) over at their Facebook album.

If this reminds you of another African pastor (Pastor Daniel), who convinced his flock to eat grass, gasolineand then flowers, it's because Mnguni considers that man his spiritual father. So if this ministry spreads across the region, expect even more bizarre stuff.

This is all quite sickening. If you view the images, it really does seem like there is some element of sick fascination the pastor has with eating bizarre things. However, this unique shtick of his could also be a result of a fascination with something else as well.

Turkish TV Interviewer LOLs When Theologian Forbids 'Oral Sex In Advanced Dimensions'

In Turkey, when secular bloggers need a good laugh, they turn on their televisions to hear the latest sex advice from theologians - who are all very keen to share tips on what will get you off without sending you to Hell. A few weeks ago, we heard about the theologian who warned us all that masturbation would make your hands full of babies.

Well, just today, some more fine sex advice came from renowned Turkish theologian  Ali Riza Demircan, who kindly reminded us all that butt sex and BDSM would get you thrown into the everlasting fires of hell. Thanks, Ali, we already knew that.

Demircan wasn't done with just that though. He wanted to make it very clear that licking and sucking your beloved's naughty bits was also expressly forbidden! In fact, he felt the need to tell everyone that no matter how much of a cunninglingus god you are, you're still damned for eternity.

This caused his interviewer, seasoned television personality Pelin Cift to completely lose it.
But already trying not to laugh, she could no longer restrain herself when Demircan went on to declare in the same monotone that “oral sex in advanced dimensions” between couples was also “haram.”

Cift collapsed into laughter with her hand pressed to her face, much to the astonishment of Demircan who said: “Pelin, sister, you had been talking so comfortably. But now you can’t even ask a question!”
You probably don't understand Turkish, but I recommend watching it just because Cift tries valiantly to keep it together but ultimately loses it.

What's sort of shocking is that these old theologians don't seem to think twice about how ridiculous it is to sit there are tell people what they can do in bed together. For a group that has a problem with sadism, they all seem to have no problem whatsoever with using the theology of their religion to be tops with everyone else being bottoms.
The baffled Islam expert asked the presenter: “What’s your problem with me?”

By now almost unable to speak for laughing, Cift, one of Turkey’s best known presenters, asked the theologian: “What’s your problem, my dear hoca!” using an Islamic term of respect for a teacher.

The incident from the show called the “Other Agenda” went viral on social media, with one Twitter user posting a picture of himself in a locked iron mask to protect himself, he said, from “advanced oral sex.”
Beware of advanced oral sex.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Bangladeshi Politician Jailed For Hurting Religious Sentiment, Branded 'Atheist' & Life Threatened

Abdul Latif Siddiqui
Atheist bloggers aren't the only ones in Bangladesh who need to be very careful about what they say. Politicians also risk being murdered for expressing any opinion which could inflame the rage of Islamic terrorists.
“He will be killed wherever he is found. No atheist has been spared since the independence of Bangladesh,” the Dhaka Tribune quoted Maulana Junayed Al Habib as saying at an Iftar gathering at Jamia Madania Madrassa in Dhaka.
Apparently, Al Habib is a representative of an organization which represents some 70,000 religious schools - Islamic madrassas. The fact that he has the gall to speak this threat in public and that he's not immediately hauled off to jail for it, says a lot about the current state of human rights in Bangladesh.

In fact, Bangladesh is an excellent study case of what happens to a so-called secular nation in which religion has assumed such primacy that it has now effectively become a terrifying theocracy.
Slandering religion and “hurting religious sentiment” are illegal in Bangladesh. Vigilantes have also taken the law into their own hands. This year alone, suspected fundamentalists have killed three secular bloggers in separate machete attacks.
Murdering politicians who happened to say something impious is perfectly okay, though.

Siddiqui was fired by the Prime Minister while he was abroad in New York. He made the fatal mistake of pointing out that perhaps the Muslim Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the Hajj, might be a bit of a waste of money.
“It is sheer waste of manpower. Some 20 lakh [two million] people have gone to Saudi Arabia. They have no work to do. It is deduction, rather than production. They are spending and consuming. They are taking the country’s money to Saudi Arabia,” he said in alleged footage of the event posted on YouTube. 
They are taking the money of a rather poor country and transferring it en masse to Saudi Arabia - a mind-numbingly rich human rights abuser.

For this comment, he got seven months in prison. He is now on bail. Apparently, he lives in a secular country. His lawyer had this to say.
“Atheism is not illegal in our country and we do not have Sharia Law to demand [the] death sentence [for] atheists. The government should take stern action against all irrespective of their political or other identities in such cases,” Barua told the Dhaka Tribune. 
Keep repeating this and perhaps someone might believe you. It's been clearly demonstrated that atheism will get you murdered in Bangladesh by mouth frothing, machete wielding religious lunatics. The government appears to be taking stern action by apparently being scared shitless of the terrorists and making mealy mouthed excuses.
They say “it is a sensitive matter” and that they plan to persuade the groups not to stage confrontations during the holy month.

“The government is monitoring the situation carefully and nobody would be allowed to create any law and order situation during Ramadan,” a minister told BenarNews, requesting anonymity.
Sounds like they're handling this situation like a boss! Laying down the law in Bangladesh!

Meanwhile, protesters appear to still be in need of some delicate persuasion not to slice this politician - who is not even necessarily an atheist - to ribbons.
Members of Islami Oikyo Jote – also a part of Hefazat – marched in Dhaka’s Lalbagh area on Tuesday to protest his release.

“The atrocious atheists and murtads (infidel) are being patronized by granting Latif Siddiqui bail. They will not be allowed to live in this country,” Mufti Faizullah, secretary general of the Jote, said, according to the Dhaka Tribune.
Why are the authorities not throwing this man into jail? I guess jail time might further offend his delicate religious sensitivities. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

CFI Canada Represented on New External Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom to Advise the ORF

Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (source)
Today, I ran across this story in the National Post by Raymond J. de Souza, which mentioned the new External Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom to Advise Office of Religious Freedom I posted about yesterday ... en passant.

Here's the part which matters.
The inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for the Office of Religious Freedom was held on Monday, bringing together some two dozen religious leaders — and one agnostic — from across the country to provide advice to the office on religious liberty around the world.
Yesterday, I tweeted Andrew Bennett, head of the Office of Religious Freedom to ask him if anyone would stand up for secular people being oppressed by religious regimes and majorities across the world. Actually, I just wanted to know who the 23 religious leaders on the committee were. It all seemed to be a bit of a mystery because neither the press release nor the scant media coverage so far actually mentioned its members.

Well, I found the list on the Office's website, which was put up just today. It lists all 23 religious representatives and the mystery agnostic leader, who happens to be none other than CFI Canada's National Executive Director, Eric Adriaans.
Eric Adriaans is national executive director of Centre for Inquiry Canada, a national charity providing education on secular humanism, reason, science and critical thinking. Mr. Adriaans has been a charitable sector professional since 1991, working with Canada’s most respected organizations. At CFI Canada, Mr. Adriaans has led an organization renewal program, with a focus on human rights, education and health sciences. These programs are aimed at supporting new Canadians and helping them access international events and opposing blasphemy laws throughout the world through the founding of the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws.

Well, I'm not sure why de Souza called Adriaans an agnostic. Unless I'm mistaken, I think he's an atheist. Is it really so bad to use the A-word?

Anyway, this is actually great news. At least the CFI is on their committee to advise the Office -- something they've been trying to do for a long ... long time.

I've emailed Eric and asked for some comments on how the inaugural meeting went and his hopes and ideas for the future. Hopefully, with the CFI's input, the Office will become better at advocating for those whose freedom from religion -- who are being persecuted because of their lack of religion or questioning of dogma. Because, frankly, their record is not fantastic and they're still not doing a stellar job.

Hope to hear back from him soon and I'll update you all.

5 Greatest Threats to Traditional Religions: According to Omani Mufti

Listen, the world's got big problems and Sheikh Dr Kahlan Nabhan Al Kharusi, Oman's assistant grand mufti addressed a meeting of world traditional religions in Kazakhstan.
Al Kharusi was speaking at the 5th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, last week when he voiced his concerns about five issues he sees as threats to religious societies and implored religious leaders to join him in combating them.
World hunger? Grotesque economic inequality? Preventable disease? Lack of education -- particularly for girls and women? Horrendous working conditions? Global climate change? Suppression of freedom of expression? Controlled and muzzled press? Actual persecution of religious minorities?

No, I hadn't read correctly. This is about threats to traditional religious societies. So atheism leads the list!
In an interview with Times of Oman he spoke in depth about these issues which include a rise in militant atheism, the erosion of traditional family structures as more countries allow same-sex marriage, youth who lack spiritual fulfillment, wars that are not religiously sanctioned, and bioethics, where some scientific developments harm human dignity.
By militant atheism he means books and speeches by Richard Dawkins and he says he's concerned that atheists are no longer peaceful (read: silent) and are now aggressive (read: vocal). Yes, these atheists are a real threat and so it's a relief that Kazakhstan, the very country in which the mufti was uttering these words, has dealt with one of their militant atheists by potentially throwing him into jail for seven years.
Reporters Without Borders is appalled by journalist and human rights activist Alexander Kharlamov’s detention on trumped up charges for the past four months for writing articles critical of the local authorities and judicial system in his hometown, the eastern city of Ridder.

Aged in his 60s, he is facing a possible seven-year jail sentence on a charge of inciting hatred under article 164 of the criminal code. The prosecutor said he “spread atheist ideas” and “displayed a negative attitude towards religion.”
I suppose that's what happens when you live in a country rated 160 out of 179 on the Press Freedom Index -- yet still, according to the mufti, the atheists are the big threat.

Two experts failed to find any indication that Kharlmov's blog was inciting any sort of hatred at all but the judges in this country know better than experts because their religious sensitivities were offended by his atheist blog.
Two official expert evaluations of Kharlamov failed to find evidence of inciting hatred but judges nonetheless ruled that “these actions could provoke religious hatred and the formation of a negative attitude towards religion, which will contribute to conflicts between persons.”
Oh, they also threw him into a psychiatric ward for a month as well and he's just now gotten out. All this after spending six months behind bars previously. Seems to me like it's the entire judiciary that's a threat in this country. I wonder if the new External Advisory Committee to the Office of Religious Freedom will have anything to say in his defense?

Jailed atheist journalist and blogger Aleksandr Kharlamov and a cat.
Well, I suppose I'm a militant atheist. I also support same-sex marriage.

I'm also no fan of religiously sanctioned wars. I believe the Crusades were generally an awful idea, as were the Islamic wars of conquest. I also recall George W. Bush raving about how God told  him going to Iraq was a good idea. Nope, I'm not a fan of this at all.

When it comes to the youth, the problem appears to be consumer culture and gangster hip-hop lifestyles.
The third issue Al Kharusi raised was the culture of consumerism which is eroding traditional values and causing youth to be lacking spiritually and intellectually void. He was worried that people from poorer backgrounds, such as young Africans, may be influenced by African-American gangster and hip-hop lifestyles and try to imitate them, thinking they are well-cultured and fashionable. He said that when the youth realise how empty this consumer culture is, they may become susceptible to people with extremist agendas as they seek to fill their spiritual needs.
Gangster hip-hop extremist groups? Gangs perhaps. I can see some negative role models across all musical genres, across all time, forever.

When it comes to bioethics, I think it's generally a good thing. Just taking a look at stem cell research issues leads me to realize that I disagree with the good mufti here too.

So, on the whole, it would seem that I am part of the challenge to this group of traditional religious leaders. I'll remember this the next time I'm offered a free ticket to Kazakhstan or Oman.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Office of Religious Freedom Adds New External Advisory Committee

This morning, Office of Religious Freedom's Andrew Bennett's Twitter account was all aflutter with news about a new Advisory Committee freshly sprung up from the department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. Since I follow the office on Twitter, my phone was abuzz.
I was at work though, so didn't have much more time to see what Bennett was getting so excited about. It wasn't until Canadian Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass sent me this official press release from the office that it started to sort of make some sense to me.
Canada Establishes External Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom to Advise Office of Religious Freedom
June 22, 2015 - Ottawa, Ontario - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced the establishment of an External Advisory Committee (EAC) on religious freedom.

The Committee comprises 23 prominent leaders from a wide variety of Canadian faith and belief communities representative of Canada’s diversity. It will advise the Office of Religious Freedom on the exercise of its mandate to promote and defend religious freedom internationally as a central element of Canada’s principled foreign policy.
The inaugural meeting of the EAC was hosted today at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada in Ottawa by Minister Nicholson, and Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom.

The EAC will meet semi-annually. It is chaired by Father Raymond J. de Souza, a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Kingston and Chaplain at the Newman Centre, Queen’s University. Corinne Box of the Bahá’í Community of Canada and Malik Talib, President of the Aga Khan Council for Canada, serve as vice chairs of the EAC.

Quick Facts
The Government of Canada officially opened its Office of Religious Freedom within Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

The mandate of the Office is to protect, and advocate on behalf of, religious minorities under threat; oppose religious hatred and intolerance; and promote Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance abroad.

“Since the creation of the Office of Religious Freedom, Canada has established itself as a global leader in advocating for and defending persecuted religious communities around the world. In the context of global threats to religious freedom, EAC members will provide valuable insight from the perspectives of their communities and their depth of experience, which will enrich and enhance the monitoring and advocacy work conducted by the Office of Religious Freedom.”
- The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs
I searched high and low and couldn't find an actual list of all 23 religious leaders who will be influencing the office. So, I sent a couple of tweets off to Bennett.
Maybe I'll get an answer. It does seem rather mysterious that they didn't bother to name these 23 individuals.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

London Film Festival Stops Screening of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Film

Rechy Elias is one of very few women ultra-Orthodox Jewish film directors, as you can probably imagine. Her latest film, Gift of Fire, was to be screened at Seret, a London-Israeli film festival. Just one problem -- it got canceled because a man complained he wasn't allowed to watch it.
Festivalgoer David Lass, who made the original complaint to the equalities and human rights commission, told the Jewish Chronicle he “very much regretted the outcome”, adding: “I would have welcomed a compromise solution allowing two screenings, one for women and one for men, but the organisers would not allow it.”
Oh wait, that's not the problem! It was because the film festival was only allowing women to watch the film -- even gender segregated viewings were not allowed.
Seret organisers, who at one point threatened to stand outside the Odeon to prevent men from seeing the film, have not yet made any public comment on the cancellation of Gift of Fire’s single remaining screening.
So Lass did the reasonable thing when gender discrimination happens and filed a complaint with the human rights commission.

Why would men not be allowed to watch the film? Because the director decided she only wanted women to watch it. I'm pretty sure there's something a little rich about this -- coming from a member of a community which hasn't exactly been known to respect gender equality.
“It’s regrettable that we will no longer be able to screen the film by Rechy Elias, a female film director from the Haredi community,” the statement reads. “Elias made Gift of Fire with the explicit intention of it only being shown to female audiences; without that condition, she would never have made the film.”
No word yet if men will be allowed to purchase the DVD or if they'll be required to fake their identities to get it online.

The motivation here was to create a safe space for women to experience the film. I don't question the intent but wonder how feasible it actually is.
JW3 CEO Raymond Simonson said the centre “had hoped to be able to provide [a] rare platform for a Haredi female film-maker to express herself artistically, as well as a ‘safe’ environment for Jewish women from across the entire spectrum of the community to see this unique film”. He added: “However, following the one and only complaint we received from a gentleman who also contacted the equalities and human rights commission, we took legal advice. Unfortunately, it seems that showing this film only to female-only audiences would indeed be in breach of UK equality laws, which we would of course never intentionally do.”
Based on what I've read about the Haredi community, it seems to me like even many of the men never watch television or film. So I'm uncertain what the odds would be of women being allowed to attend the screenings alone -- especially when it's banned to their husbands.

What about feminist men like me?

Anyway, perhaps another motivation for this is mentioned by another news site.
The film includes scenes of women singing and dancing, which large parts of the ultra-Orthodox community believe should not be shown to men out of fear it would "trigger them to commit sin".
So would orthodox women be scared of men in the theater getting over aroused?

I'm used to this sort of idea coming from cloistered religious groups. What gets me are statements like this coming from the event organizers.
 “However, following the one and only complaint we received from a gentleman who also contacted the equalities and human rights commission, we took legal advice. Unfortunately, it seems that showing this film only to female-only audiences would indeed be in breach of UK equality laws, which we would of course never intentionally do.”
Where have I heard this only one complaint business before? Right, city councils dealing with atheist groups who do not want to see state-church separation mangled. Furthermore, is the idea of equal access to media for both sexes really that foreign in the UK now? I'm shocked they didn't see this as a problem and actually threatened to put guards out front to enforce it.

Then there's the very title of the article with the ironic quotes around illegal: "Centre cancels 'illegal' women-only screening of film by Jewish director"

No listen, it's not a good thing to forbid entire genders from watching a film, driving, voting, etc. When did this become such a controversial topic?

Look, I personally do not have a problem with having all-women and all-men screenings of this film -- even though this is likely against the spirit of equality laws. This could be done at private venues as well. However, this wasn't enough for the director.

It makes me wonder if this action is some sort of statement against female oppression in the community? If so, then the message is lost on me.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Russian Religious Groups Band Together For Gender-Segregated Beaches

Bikini clad woman glances at burka wearing woman squatting at mixed beach in pre-revolution Iran. (1971)
I've just never understood people here in North America who have intense problems with women feeding their babies in the most natural way possible -- by nursing them! -- in public. I cannot think of anything more natural than mother feeding child. I mean, WWJD? What the hell's happened to people?

So when I read about religious groups in Russia requesting more segregated beaches -- so they can feel comfortable -- this once naked-jumping-over-bonfires Wiccan turned atheist must conclude that there must be something profoundly wrong with these people.
The request to the Moscow City Hall has been prepared and filed by Albir Krganov who is a deputy chairman of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Russia and also a member of the Public Chamber’s Commission for Harmonization of Relations between Ethnic and Religious Groups.

He claimed that “hundreds of thousands” of religious residents of Moscow did not wish to swim in a mixed beach “As not everyone can afford a trip abroad, and we consider it necessary to open additional recreation zones for the residents of the capital city who cannot stay on common beaches for religious or moral reasons,” Krganov wrote in a letter.
Finally, something Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Russian Orthodox followers can agree on! There would be world peace so long as you hide your revolting bodies -- especially the women.
Vice President of the Russian Union of Tourist Industry, Yuri Barzykin also threw support behind the plan, saying that separate beaches could help members of all confessions find a comfortable place for themselves.
Does religion do this to people or do certain people flock to the most fundamentalist and orthodox forms of religion?

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