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atheism

I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God [sic]. -- George Herbert Walker Bush (After he was elected president, Bush's White House counsel C. Boyden Gray wrote in response to an inquiry about this quote: "...you may rest assured that this Administration will proceed at all times with due regard for the legal rights of atheists, as will as others with whom the President disagrees."*)

Article IX, Sec. 2, of the Tennessee constitution ("No Atheist shall hold a civil office") states: "No person who denies the being of God [sic], or a future state of rewards and punishments shall hold any office in the civil department of this state." Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas have similar laws.*

An Atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support. --John Buchan

I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.--Stephen F. Roberts

Atheism is traditionally defined as disbelief in the existence of a god. As such, atheism involves active rejection of belief in the existence of at least one god. This definition does not capture the atheism of many atheists, which is based on an indifference to the issue of the existence of gods. This attitude of indifference is sometimes called apatheism.

There is a difference between disbelief in all gods and no belief in a particular god. I'm not sure there is even any meaning to the former. Before one can disbelieve in something, that something must be intelligible and it must be understood. Since belief in new gods may appear in the future and it is impossible to know what will be meant by reference to those gods, it makes no sense to say one disbelieves in all gods. Likewise, some conceptions of a god are so confusing as to be little more than gibberish. How can one disbelieve in the "ineffable ground of all being"? The expression has no meaning for me and I suspect that those who claim it is meaningful to them don't know what they're talking about.

However, since there are many concepts of gods and these concepts are usually rooted in some culture or tradition, atheism might be defined as the belief that a particular word used to refer to a particular god is a word that has no reference. Thus, there are as many different kinds of atheism as there are names of gods or groups of gods.

Some atheists may know of many gods and reject belief in the existence of all of them. Such a person might be called a polyatheist. All theists are atheists in the sense that they deny the existence of all other gods except theirs, but they don't consider themselves atheists. Most people today who consider themselves atheists probably mean that they do not believe in the existence of the local god. For example, most people who call themselves atheists in a culture where the dominant god is the Jewish, Christian, or Islamic god (i.e., Abraham's god or AG) would mean, at the very least, that they do not believe that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, providential creator of the universe.

Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), on the other hand, defined the Abrahamic god as being identical to nature and as a substance with infinite attributes. Many Jews and Christians considered him an atheist because he rejected both the traditional theological view of AG and the belief in personal immortality. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was also considered an atheist because he believed that all substances are material and that AG must therefore be material. Yet, neither Spinoza nor Hobbes called himself an atheist.

Epicurus did not call himself an atheist, either, but he rejected the concept of the gods popular in ancient Greece. The gods are perfect, he said. Therefore, they cannot be the imperfect beings depicted by Hesiod, Homer, and others. Their gods have human flaws, including jealousy. Perfect beings would not be troubled by anything, including the behavior of humans. Hence, the notion that the gods will reward or punish us is absurd. To be perfect is to be unperturbed. The concept of perfection, therefore, requires that the gods be indifferent to human behavior. Some have rejected belief in AG for similar reasons. The idea of a perfect being creating the universe is self-contradictory. How can perfection be improved upon? At its best, to create is to bring into existence something that makes things better. At its worst, to create is to make things worse, which would be a blemish on perfection. If those objections can be answered, another arises: if a god is all-good and all-powerful, evil should not exist. Therefore, either this god is all-good but can't stop evil because this god is not all-powerful, or this god is all-powerful but allows evil because this god is not all-good. Such an argument clearly does not deny the existence of all gods and is relevant only in disputes over the likely consequences of a god having a certain nature.

Others have rejected AG because they believe that the concept of worship, essential to most Christians, contradicts the concept of omnipotence (Rachels 1989). The concept of an all-powerful perfect being extorting worship from his creations seems absurd (worship me or I'll smite you a good one!). It also seems clearly anthropomorphic. The only motivation for worshipping AG would be fear or the expectation of some sort of payoff if you do. How could anyone love this brutal, malicious character? Still others reject a belief in AG because they consider the scriptures used to support that belief to be unbelievable. Some theologians have tried to prove through reason alone that AG exists. Rejection of such proofs, however, is not atheism. One can be a theist and also believe that it is impossible to prove that any particular god exists (agnosticism).

Some Christians consider Buddhists to be atheists, apparently for the same reason they consider Spinoza or Plato to be atheists: anyone who does not accept AG is by definition an atheist. Yet, rejecting AG is not to reject all gods. Nor is rejecting AG the same as rejecting belief in an ultimate source or principle of being and goodness, a being that explains both why there is something rather than nothing and why everything is as it is. Nor is rejection of AG the same as rejecting belief in a realm of beings such as devas or spirits that are not limited by mortality and other human or animal frailties.

Atheists do not deny that people have mystical or religious experiences, where one feels what one believes is a divine presence or a sense of the oneness and significance of everything in the universe. Nor do atheists deny that many people experience what they interpret as a divine presence in their everyday lives. Atheists strongly disbelieve that the emotions or brain states or neurochemical changes that result in such feelings and experiences have supernatural causes or are indicators of supernatural beings.

morality

Some theists believe that atheism is dangerous for society because if there are no gods there is no reason to be moral. Bishop Stillingfleet (1635-1699) summed up this view  nicely in his argument against the Stoic's notion that virtue is its own reward. If there weren't some other reward for being moral, he said, it would be foolish "for men to part with the conveniences of this present life" (Carroll 1975: 112). Furthermore, a reasonable god would not leave it up to mere philosophers to discover our moral duties. After all, they're "perpetually disputing among themselves about those things which were the most necessary foundations of all Virtue and Religion [sic]." The rational atheist must gag at such a remark, given the incessant disputes among the various religions as to what constitutes virtue and morality. Stillingfleet dismissed the views of other religions by referring to them as "foolish Notions...vain Superstitions...incoherent Fables [sic]..." The other views are debased, uncouth, impure, filled with horrible flaws. Only Anglicanism had it right. Of course, the other religions say the same about Anglicanism. And so it goes.

Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) didn't agree with Stillingfleet. He denied knowing any immoral atheists and asked readers of his Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697) to send him any evidence of immoral atheists (Popkin 2003: 293-294). The Dictionary went through several editions in Bayle's lifetime but no examples of immoral atheists were ever produced. In fact, the longest article in the Dictionary is the one on Spinoza, who is identified as an atheist and depicted as one of the most moral men who ever lived. Bayle claimed that a society of atheists could be more moral than a society of Christians. He pointed out that, historically,

Christian societies from ancient times to the present were full of evildoers, corrupt persons, sex maniacs, liars, and cheats....His picture of the religious society of ancient Israel was, in some way, even worse, as depicted in his article on King David. (Popkin 2003: 297)

Of course, there are many modern theists who are sex maniacs, liars, cheats, mass murderers, rapists, sexual abusers of children, robbers of pension funds, and the like. It seems obvious from the factual evidence of more than four millennia that belief in AG is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for being moral. Despite the fact that philosophers perpetually dispute just about every thesis on every topic, the great moral thinkers of the world have been secular philosophers such as Confucius, Aristotle, Hume, Mill, and Kant, rather than the AG-based who seem incapable of producing anything more elegant than a divine command theory.

AG-based ethics have contributed little to moral progress or to the understanding of our moral nature. Most AG-based ethical systems have been little more than dogmatic lists of prohibitions, many of which have been irrational. Their main effect has been to bind members of various groups around a set of values, beliefs, and rituals, while identifying other groups as evil enemies. Of course, many of these systems have provided other benefits, such as the false hope for immortality and the allegedly comforting notion that all suffering is intentional and for some higher purpose. But these alleged benefits have been so uncertain that most AG-based groups have had to use force and violence of the most inhumane and ugliest sort to keep the group together. (I grant that while engaging in these murders and tortures, the AG-based ethical groups often produced some beautiful music, poetry, painting, sculpture, and architecture, and they kept the group together for many fine social functions.) Some of these AG-based ethical systems have even proposed that each of their members should embark on a lifelong quest of murdering and pillaging all non-believers,* though many ignore teachings they don't accept,* and others disguise their true beliefs.* Few modern Jews or Christians would consider following biblical commands to stone people to death for adultery or to exterminate the women, children, and animals of an enemy. Of course, atheists can also do horrible and inhumane things. (Think Stalin, though he did have a religious upbringing I am told, little good that it did him.) My point is that belief in a god is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for a moral life.

On the other hand, secular ethical thought, though no more uniform than the conflicting rules of the various religions on the planet, has advanced both our moral progress and our understanding of the nature of morality. Ideas of racial and gender equality, and of freedom of speech and thought as essential for human development, originated with secular philosophers. Furthermore, there have been no Kantian jihads, Utilitarian inquisitions, or Confucian crusades. (It is true, however, that atheists whose main concern has been political power rather than ethical insight—again, think Stalin—have not advanced human rights or freedom, but have hindered our progress.) There is no reason to think that a society of atheists wouldn't be at least as moral as the existing societies of theists. The only way we'll know for sure is if theism goes the way of the dodo.

growth of atheism

How widespread is atheism? It is difficult to say with precision, since many people are afraid of admitting they are atheists. (Think of the terms that have been used at various times in various places to convey disapproval of atheists: heretic, infidel, non-believer, unbeliever, disbeliever, pagan, blasphemer, nonconformist, dissenter, apostate, defector, and fallen-away Catholic, Jew, Muslim, etc. The bright movement attempts to counter this hostility by focusing on a positive term for those who are not supers.) There are indications, however, that atheism is growing and is more widespread than the media and religious leaders would have us believe. A worldwide survey in 2000 by the Gallup polling agency found that 8% do not think there is any spirit, personal god, or life force. Another 17% were not sure. The American Religious Identification Survey of 2001 found growth in that segment of the adult population "identifying with no religion." In 1990, 14.3 million or roughly 8% identified with this category. Ten years later the non-religious population had grown to 29.4 million, roughly 14.1% of the American community. This may be due in large part to the fact that in the 1990 survey the question asked was loaded: What religion do you identify with? In 2001, if any was added to the question. In 2008, the Pew Foundation published the largest, most comprehensive survey on religious affiliation ever done. About 16% say they are not affiliated with any religion. That translates to about 49 million Americans who don't identify with any religion. Atheists make up only 1.6% of the adult population; that's fewer than 5 million atheists in the U.S. and are outnumbered by Christians by about 50 to 1. In 2008, the American Religious Identification Survey found that since the last survey of its kind in 2001, the number of atheists has doubled from 900,000 to 1.6 million. The number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation is now at 15%.

The fact is that more than half the world’s population, and more than 90% of the world’s scientists, do not believe in a personal god, and hence would be considered atheists by many Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Worldwide, there are about 1.1 billion nonreligious people; only two religions have more numbers: Christianity has about 2.1 billion adherents and Islam has about 1.3 billion.* Apparently, many millions of people around the world accept the existence of some sort of supernatural being or force, but it makes no difference at all in their lives. If I had to sum up my own atheism, I think I would have to say that it amounts to this: I have no interest in the supernatural. I also have no interest in what others believe about the supernatural as long as their belief does not involve intolerance of those who disagree with them. Such people are a menace to society, a hindrance to social progress, and are unworthy of our respect. If we care about humanity, we have a duty to stand up to the intolerant of the world, no matter what god they claim commands them to behave inhumanely. We also have a duty to oppose those who claim immunity from the prohibition of abusing children because of their belief in some god. To claim that children should not be educated in science or in the religious beliefs of others—or that they should not receive proper medical care—because their parents believe some god forbids it, is immoral.

divide and try to conquer

Today, there are many bloggers who think atheism should be framed in terms of positive atheism or negative atheism. Positive atheism is called "strong" atheism and holds that no god of any sort exists. Negative or "weak" atheism holds that the evidence doesn't justify belief in any sort of god, though it is logically possible that some god or gods exist. It seems obvious that strong atheism, like strong theism, requires an act of faith for most gods. However one conceives of one's god, one can always stipulate that no kind of evidence can ever disprove his or her existence. Your god can be perfectly good but allow evil because his ways can't be understood by humans. You can claim evil isn't real, etc. Proving a god doesn't exist is impossible not because gods exist or "it's impossible to prove a negative," but because gods are defined in such a way as to be impossible to disprove their existence. Frankly, concern with this kind of "strong" belief about anything is silly and a waste of time. I'm one of those people who can't find much value in metaphysical systems that have no utility, even though they can't be refuted by logic or empirical evidence. For every possible world there is a contradictory possible world.  This could be the best of all possible worlds or it could be the worst of all possible worlds. So what?

Referring to atheism as "weak" or "negative" implies that it is feeble and defensive, which is absurd. Would anyone call belief in phlogiston or the ether, for example, "weak" or "negative"? I don't think so. The evidence doesn't justify belief in either phlogiston or the ether, but it is logically possible that they exist (say in a parallel universe that rarely or never intersects our universe). The fact is, for all the important beliefs humans can have and for all the facts that we can establish, reasonable probability is all we have and all we need. Also, it seems that most atheists do not believe in any gods not because they have an airtight proof for the non-existence of any deity, but because they don't see any good reason for believing in any of the many gods that humans have told stories about.

If one is in need of dividing beliefs into weak and strong, they ought to be divided by quality and quantity of evidence. Likewise, if one is in need of dividing beliefs into positive and negative, one ought to divide them according to whether the evidence supports a position (positive) or counts against it (negative).

If one has a need to divide atheists, one might benefit by contrasting activists with non-activists. The former are writing books and speaking out in defense of not believing in gods when the majority of their fellow citizens do believe in them (e.g., Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Paulos, Stenger, Blackmore, Benson, Hecht, Jacoby, Lalli, internet infidels, the brights). The activists also demand that they be treated equally with other citizens and not ignored or discriminated against because of their naturalistic view of reality (e.g., Secular Coalition for AmericaFreedom from Religion Foundation, American Atheists, Butterflies and Wheels, the brights). Activists not only promote atheism but actively criticize religious beliefs and their anti-social or immoral consequences (e.g., Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens). Activists maintain that religious believers should not be given any exemptions when it comes to being scrutinized by critical thinkers. The strongest activists call for the end of religion altogether. The majority of atheists are not activists, probably because we fear the social consequences of wearing our non-religion on our sleeves and partly because we are willing to live and let live as long as theists aren't oppressive (e.g., Hecht, Lalli). The more oppressive theists become, the more the weakness of their position is brought into the light and the more likely they are to awaken passive atheists from their indifferent slumber.

 

See also agnosticism, anti-theism, atheist bus campaign, bright, gods, miraclethe New Atheism, theism, my review of R. Dawkins's The God DelusionIs Atheism a Religion?, and Why I am not an Atheist.


reader comments

further reading

books and articles

Alper, Matthew. The "God" Part of the Brain. 4th ed. (Rogue Press  2001).

Alper, M. et al. NeuroTheology: Brain, Science, Spirituality, Religious Experience 2nd edition (University Press 2003).

Bayle, Pierre. Historical and Critical Dictionary: Selections. Translated by Richard H. Popkin. Hackett Publishing Company, 1991.

Berman, David. ed. Atheism in Britain, 5 vols., (Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Press, 1996).

Boyer, Pascal. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (Basic Books 2002).

Carroll, Robert Todd. (1975). The Common-Sense Philosophy of Religion of Bishop Edward Stillingfleet, 1635-1699. International Archives of the History of Ideas. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague.

Dawkins, Richard. (2006). The God Delusion Houghton Mifflin.

Dennett, Daniel. (2006). Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Viking Press.

Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion (1927).

Harris, Sam. (2005). The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. W. W. Norton.

Hecht, Jennifer Michael. 2004.  Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. HarperOne.

Jacoby, Susan. (2005). Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Owl Books.

Johnson, B. C. The Atheist Debater's Handbook (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1981).

Kick, Russ. editor. (2007). Everything You Know About God is Wrong - The Disinformation Guide to Religion. Disinformation Company.

Krueger, Douglas E. What Is Atheism? : A Short Introduction (Prometheus, 1998).

Lalli, Nica. 2007. Nothing: something to believe in. Prometheus.

Martin, Michael. Atheism : a Philosophical Justification (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992).

Martin, Michael and Ricki Monnier. Editors. (2006). The Improbability of God. Prometheus.

Mills, David. 2004. Atheist Universe: Why God Didn't Have A Thing To Do With It. Xlibris Corporation.

Newberg, Andrew M.D., Eugene G. D'Aquili and Vince Rause. Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief (Ballantine Books, 2001).

Paulos, John Allen. (2007). Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up. Hill and Wang.

Persinger, Michael. Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs (Praeger Pub Text., 1987).

Popkin, Richard H. (2003). History of Scepticism from Savonarola to Bayle. Oxford University Press.

Popkin, Richard H. (2004). Spinoza. Oneworld Publications.

Rachels, James. "God and Human Attitudes," in Religious Studies 7 (1971). Reprinted in Philosophy and the Human Condition, 2nd. ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1989), pp. 509-518.

Russell, Bertrand Arthur. Why I Am Not a Christian, and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Simon & Schuster, 1977).

Shermer, Michael. (2005). The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule. Owl Books.

Smith, George H. Atheism: the Case Against God (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1979).

Stenger, Victor. (2007). God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Prometheus.

Wright, Robert. (1995). The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. Vintage. reprint.

websites

Atheist Ireland Publishes 25 Blasphemous Quotes The new Irish blasphemy law became operational on 1 Jan 2009. Blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine. The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion.

Outlawing Unbelief by Tom Flynn

American Atheists

The Question of Atheists Hospitals

An Atheist Manifesto by Sam Harris

The Secular Web

The Atheism Web

The Infidel Guy

Arguments for Atheism - The Freethought Zone

The Atheist Alliance

AmericanAtheist: A Journal of Atheist News and Thought

The Buddhist Attitude to God by Dr V. A. Gunasekara

Religious Beliefs of Americans

Atheism Resources on the Web

EvilBible.com

RADAtheist.com Reason, Acceptance, Diversity, Without God

Atheism blog: Proving the Negative - Matt McCormick

Military Religious Freedom Foundation

blogs

Why do Americans still dislike atheists? A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

The likely atheists by Benjamin Beit-Hallahm

A century of research has highlighted that atheists tend to be well-educated – and that top scientists are especially godless.

"A tentative psychological profile [of the atheist personality] can be offered. We can say that atheists show themselves to be less authoritarian and suggestible, less dogmatic, less prejudiced, more tolerant of others, law-abiding, compassionate, conscientious, and well-educated. They are of high intelligence, and many are committed to the intellectual and scholarly life."

Atheists and Anger, Greta Christina's blog Why am I angry? Let me count the ways. Greta vents a righteous vent. Amen.

Why atheism will replace religion by Nigel Barber, Ph.D. "Atheists are more likely to be college-educated people who live in cities and they are highly concentrated in the social democracies of Europe. Atheism thus blossoms amid affluence where most people feel economically secure....The reasons that churches lose ground in developed countries can be summarized in market terms. First, with better science, and with government safety nets, and smaller families, there is less fear and uncertainty in people's daily lives and hence less of a market for religion. At the same time many alternative products are being offered, such as psychotropic medicines and electronic entertainment that have fewer strings attached and that do not require slavish conformity to unscientific beliefs."

RTC comments: I think the author conflates atheism with irreligion. He also assumes that so-called third-world countries will become advanced industrial nations someday with stable economies. For all we know, some advanced industrial nations may have to revert to pre-industrial ways of life to survive famines, bloods, droughts, plagues nuclear war, etc. There is also the problem of USA (oosa), where religion and theism flourish and recent events have reminded us that no economy is ever stable enough to make people feel so secure they don't need to cling to some sort of security blanket for comfort.

Greta Christina on Atheism & Sexuality The sexual morality of traditional religion tends to be based, not on solid ethical principles, but on a set of taboos about what kinds of sex God does and doesn't want people to have.

What Can the Atheist Movement Learn from the Gay Movement? Greta Christina's blog Probably the single most important thing atheists can learn from the LGBT movement is to encourage visibility and coming out -- and to work harder on making the atheist movement a safer place to come out into.

Eleven Myths and Truths About Atheists Greta Christina's blog

Could Atheism Prove that God [sic] does not Exist? John Shook, Free Thinking

Atheia - English blog from Greece

Online Texts

Darrow, Clarence. Absurdities of the Bible

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan (1651), ch. XII, "Of Religion."

Hume, David. "Of Miracles," Section X of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Smith, Homer. Man and His Gods, foreword by Albert Einstein (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1952).

Spinoza, Baruch de. Theologico-Political Treatise (1670). 

Spinoza, Baruch de. The Ethics

news stories

Julia Gillard, Australia's atheist prime ministerAnalyst says Australians unfazed by PM's atheism A social analyst has said that most Australians will not be bothered that new PM Julia Gillard's is not a religious believer, adding that her lapsed faith actually makes her “more representative of modern Australia”.

Buckner to resign as president of American Atheists "Buckner said that he will remain with the organization as an active member, volunteer, and strong supporter. He gave several reasons for choosing to not continue as president: 'I need more time to write and reflect, as well as simply to relax more, and the organization needs fresh leadership....'  Under his presidency, American Atheists re-organized its corporate structure, continued to reach out to and work with other Atheist, Freethought, and Humanist groups, including joining the Secular Coalition for America, and revitalized its fundraising efforts to insure that it would survive and thrive as an activist movement for years to come.

Atheist license plate sparks debate Brian McGee of Fargo, North Dakota, has been denied a vanity license plate reading ISNOGOD, despite the fact that plate's with pro-gods messages have been permitted. He's appealing.

update: Brian won his appeal.

Judge backs Redding atheist who balked at religious anti-drug program Barry A. Hazle Jr. served a year in prison on a drug charge. After he got out, his parole agent sent him back for being an atheist.

Appeals Court says 'Under God' not a prayer The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that "under god" in the pledge of allegiance is not religious, but patriotic. The 3-judge panel also ruled that "in god we trust" is patriotic and ceremonial, not religious, and can stay on our coins and paper money.

The judges show no respect for polytheistic and atheistic religions.

Liberalism, atheism, male sexual exclusivity linked to IQ ....sexual exclusivity in men, liberalism and atheism all go against what would be expected given humans' evolutionary past ... none of these traits would have benefited our early human ancestors, but higher intelligence may be associated with them....Participants who said they were atheists had an average IQ of 103 in adolescence, while adults who said they were religious averaged 97, the study found.

Blacks Upbeat about Black Progress, Prospects Just 6% of whites and 3% of blacks say they could not accept a black-white interracial marriage in their family. But 27% of people affiliated with a religion would not accept a marriage in their family to someone who doesn't believe in a god.

NYC Mayor Includes Atheists at Interfaith Breakfast Nazli Parvizi, the mayor's commissioner of the Community Affairs Unit, decided to invite the nonbelievers because she was inspired by her own sense of fairness, as well as by the prominent reference to America's nonbelievers in President Obama's inauguration speech. Ms. Parvizi, who is herself an atheist, told the Times: "I always do my best to make sure every group is represented . . . I guess all these times I've ignored my own religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs, and so we reached out to atheist societies."

Lawsuit threatened over atheist councilman in NC Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell believes in ending the death penalty, conserving water and reforming government - but he doesn't believe in any gods. His political opponents say that's a sin that makes him unworthy of serving in office, and they've got the North Carolina Constitution on their side.

Bothwell's detractors are threatening to take the city to court for swearing him in, even though the state's antiquated requirement that officeholders believe in a god is unenforceable because it violates the U.S. Constitution....

Six other states, Arkansas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, have similar provisions barring atheist officeholders.

In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that federal law prohibits states from requiring any kind of religious test to serve in office when it ruled in favor of a Maryland atheist seeking appointment as a notary public.

update: Winter Display Featuring Einstein, Bill Gates Can Go Up at Ark. Capitol, Federal Judge Rules Natasha Naragon, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, said that they respected the judge's decision and that they'll work with the group to erect the display.

The least religious nations are the happiest, study finds Religion flourishes where a society is dysfunctional and poor. When affluence is present and people feel secure through the provision of health care and social services, religion quickly loses its hold. In other words, those societies that have moved furthest away from religion have higher levels of contentment, stability and affluence.

Judge: Ky. can't legislate dependence on gods A Kentucky judge ruled that it is unconstitutional to require the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to proclaim that its safety and security "cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God [sic] as set forth in the public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents."* The ruling is a victory not only for atheists, but for all Kentuckians who oppose superstition and support keeping religious beliefs out of secular affairs.

El Dorado Chiropractic Fires Woman for Being an Atheist "Can you imagine the outcry from Christian organizations if the doctor were an atheist who fired a Christian and told her that she is "being punished for her faith"?"

Dail Passes Blasphemy Law According to the Independent.ie: "The Defamation Bill, which also introduces a new crime of blasphemous libel, will come into operation after it is passed by the Seanad later this week and signed into law by President Mary McAleese. The legislation, which the media industry broadly supports, also aims to ensure that the recently established Press Council operates as efficiently as possible. It also enables newspapers to offer an apology without risking an admission of liability, and to defend libel actions by arguing that a story was in the public interest. The new laws are expected to be in full operation by October."

Salvation at the end of a television show "A new show set to grace Turkish television screens will see a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Buddhist monk competing to turn 10 unbelievers into devotees of their own faith each week." Michael Rosch has a few words to say about the concept.

Dawkins sets up kids’ camp to groom atheists "The author of The God [sic] Delusion is helping to launch Britain’s first summer retreat for non-believers, where children will have lessons in evolution and sing along to John Lennon’s Imagine."

God [sic] and Science Don't Mix by Lawrence M. Krause "A scientist can be a believer. But professionally, at least, he can't act like one."

More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops "More than ever, America’s atheists are linking up and speaking out....They are connecting on the Internet, holding meet-ups in bars, advertising on billboards and buses, volunteering at food pantries and picking up roadside trash, earning atheist groups recognition on adopt-a-highway signs."

Texas Teacher suspended for being "Liberal" and an "atheist" Here's an example of why we must have separation of church and state. Bloggers at Science Avenger and Dispatches from the Culture Wars have taken up the cause.

'Religulous' angers militant Catholics (in Italy) Militant Catholics in Italy have been defacing publicity posters for Larry Charles and Bill Maher's documentary swipe at religion, "Religulous." Said Charles: "I'd like to thank these amateurs from the Inquisition for their help in promoting the movie."

Atheism 2.0 -- Indonesia's nonbelievers find refuge online

Sir David Attenborough questioned on faith, naturally "It never really occurred to me to believe in [Abraham's] god."

Belief in a god Far Lower in Western U.S. Overall, 7% do not believe in a god or a higher power. "Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,017 national [United States] adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 8-11, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points."

Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) expels atheist Rob Sherman

Societies worse off 'when they have a god on their side'

Atheists hated - CNN

Gallitzin PA graced by Atheist Station

Imagine no religion ‘Free, proud, godless, and on the move’ at the American Atheists’ convention. Not to mention finding a new definition of WWJD. BY DAN KENNEDY

Atheist Still on Death Row! by Babu Gogineni

(update:Dr. Shaikh was acquitted and freed after retrial)

humor

Last updated 30-Dec-2013

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