Belief Systems

compiled by Wm Olkowski  republished from 1.30.12

Extracts from

The expansion of rights for women and minorities, the spread of democracy and separation of church and state, the rise of science and the Enlightenment — all these undeniably positive trends occurred in the teeth of fierce resistance from religious defenders of the status quo. Every time, the church authorities warned that changing the way things had always been was in opposition to God’s will and would surely bring disaster. And almost every time, once the change happened anyway and no disaster resulted, those same authorities switched sides and pretended they had been supporters all along.

This proves the point that every moral code, whether theistic or atheistic, changes over time as we gain new knowledge and our perspective widens. Churches and religious apologists don’t like to admit this, since it undermines their claim to be in possession of perfect moral truth from the beginning; which is why they’re usually the staunchest defenders of old and unjust systems and the very last ones to bend to the tide of progress, causing much needless human suffering in the meantime. They’d be much better off if they’d simply admit that there is no non-human moral authority, admit that their holy books and doctrines contain moral errors, and then join the rest of us living in the real world and using conscience to figure out how we can achieve the greatest good.

As sociologist Phil Zuckerman has documented, some of the highest rates of organic atheism in the world can be found in Canada, Australia, Japan and Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. And many of these same countries show up near the top in worldwide rankings of societal health indicators like life expectancy, child welfare, educational attainment, gender equality, and per capita income. As Zuckerman has found in his research, despite still having state-sponsored churches that they belong to for cultural reasons, most Danes and Swedes are completely indifferent to religion. It simply doesn’t play an important role in their daily lives. And far from collapsing into depravity or anarchy, these societies have remained free, secular, prosperous and peaceful.

And the correlation runs in the other direction as well. Sociologist Mark Regnerus, among others, points out that in America, the highest rates of teen pregnancy, divorce and sexually transmitted diseases are highest in the religious, socially conservative “red” states (in most of which abstinence is taught to the exclusion of all else), while in the more liberal and more secular “blue” states, young people tend to marry later, start families later, and have lower rates of divorce. The conclusion from Regnerus’ research: “religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and… this gap is especially wide among teenagers who identify themselves as evangelical.”

When It Comes to Indiana Creationism Bill, It’s Not Just the Lawmakers Who Are Idiots… It’s the Media, Too!

The miseducation committee of the Indiana legislature recently approved a bill to allow the teaching of creationism in the schools, and nowthe Indianapolis newspaper approves, with the usual tepid and illegitimate arguments.

Much would depend on how teachers handle the origins of life in a biology or science class.

No, it doesn’t. A bill that inserts garbage into the curriculum is a bill that inserts garbage; it doesn’t matter if you think it could be used to make a lovely collage, or as an exercise in recycling, it’s still garbage. And if you trust teachers to do their job, let them do it without boneheaded cretins in the legislature telling them how.    Read more

By PZ Myers | Pharyngula
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2012 @ 07:03 AM


Another Religion Misinformation Campaign


Manning is a member of the National Science Teachers Association. Last year an online poll of its 60,000 members found that 82 percent had faced skepticism about climate change from students and 54 percent had faced skepticism from parents. Some respondents added comments: Students believe whatever it is their parents believe. . . . Administrators roll over when parents object. In a recent survey of about 1,900 current and former teachers by the National Earth Science Teachers Association, 36 percent reported they had been influenced directly or indirectly to teach “both sides” of the issue.

“We have been hearing for several years now that teachers were getting pushback on teaching climate change, and some of the playbook used by those promoting teaching ‘both sides’ was very similar to the attempt to have evolution ‘balanced’ by creationism and intelligent design,” said Mark McCaffrey, who is spearheading the Center’s new initiative. “From my experience working with teachers, it is clear that the so-called ‘controversy’ about climate change science is a major impediment to teachers and the polarized political climate around teaching the topic is a big problem.”

McCaffrey is a pioneer in climate change education. He’s cofounder of the Climate Literacy Network and while at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) helped develop the Essential Principles of Climate Science, endorsed by the federal government’s U.S. Global Change Research Program.



The Freedom From Religion Foundation will be suing the U.S. Forest Service over the unconstitutional presence of a Knights of Columbus shrine to Jesus in Flathead National Forest in Montana.

Given that America is a Christian nation founded solely on Judeo-Christian principles (a false claim that Christians would have you believe), U.S. presidents have always ended their State of the Union speeches with “God bless America,” right?


As noted by Robert Schlesinger, opinion editor of U.S. News and World Report (and son of historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.), Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution mandates that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

George Washington gave the first address in 1790. Thomas Jefferson thought a speech in person too “kingly” and gave Congress written ones, as did the next 13 presidents until Woodrow Wilson, who revived the oral address. Franklin Roosevelt was the first to call it “The State of the Union.”

None of them ended their speeches with “God bless America,” nor did any president until Richard Nixon in a non-SOTU address from the Oval Office.

And we all know how great a moral Christian he was.


A great Rant:

But from where I stand these days, the only thing I see religion doing in the public sector is gay bashing and telling women, mostly poor and desperate and in deplorable financial and personal situations, what to do with their bodies. I see busybodies deciding what drugs they can dispense to which customers, or deciding that they don’t have to issue a marriage license because of some petty deity that I don’t believe in told them to hate their fellow citizens and ignore the law. In a country in dire financial straits but still spending billions and billions of dollars on education, I see religious folks actively and openly working to make our schoolkids dumber. I see them shooting people who provided a medical procedure, and I see others rummaging through people’s personal lives to find out who hasn’t lived up the word of God. I see glassy-eyed fools running for President claiming that vaccines that save lives actually cause cancer, or that if you get raped and are pregnant, you should just lie back and think of Jeebus and make the best of a bad situation. In fact, everywhere you look these days, if Christianity or religion is getting a mention, it means something ugly is happening and someone somewhere is being victimized, marginalized, or otherwise abused. Go read some of the arguments against integration and you’ll see the same bible verses used today against homosexuals. Fifty years from now, they’ll be recycling them again to trash someone else they don’t like or who isn’t good enough for them.

From: By John Cole | Balloon Juice
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 @ 02:42 PM

Prayer Breakfast at West Point

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has written a Jan. 31 letter to the U.S. Military Academy calling for it to do some “soul searching” over West Point’s annual so-called “National Prayer Breakfast,” after a controversy about Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin’s invitation to speak.

It is appalling, given this history of incendiary and unprofessional comments, that the U.S. Military Academy would honor Boykin by inviting him to provide an address at a West Point event. His views are off-the-wall, conspiratorial, and advance a tired ‘persecuted’ Christian theme that seeks to pit Christians of his persuasion against everyone else,” wrote FFRF.


Bill Maher: “Atheism Is a Religion Like Abstinence Is a Sex Position”

During last night’s New Rules segment, Bill Maher noted that “Until someone claims to see Christopher Hitchens’ face in a tree stump, idiots must stop claiming that atheism is a religion.” He goes on:

Not only is atheism not a religion, it’s not even my hobby. And that’s the great thing about being an atheist — it requires so little of your time….

There is a growing trend in this country that needs to be called out, and that is to label any evidence-based belief a “religion.” Many conservatives now say that a belief in man-made climate change is a “religion,” and Darwinism is a “religion,” and of course atheism — the total lack of religion — is somehow a “religion” too, according to the always reliable Encyclopedia Moronica.

To believers he says, “You don’t get to put your unreason up on the same shelf as my reason.” Then he un-baptizes Mitt Romney’s dead father-in-law, because hey — if religious people get to do wacky things like that, why not atheist Bill Maher?

Watch the segment below, via Mediaite:

By Lauren Kelley | Sourced from AlterNet

Posted at February 4, 2012, 8:33 am

Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism (often with a capital H to distinguish it from other forms of humanism), is a secular philosophy. It embraces humanreasonethics, and justice while specifically rejecting religious dogmasupernaturalismpseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision-making. From


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