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Alexander Aan update

A member of Indonesian Atheists recently visited Alexander Aan in prison. The visitor was able to bring food and drink for Alex and spoke with him for around 20 minutes. Alex appears to be well, socialising with other prisoners and communicating with the officers.  Alex and the visitor discussed recent news related to secularism and atheism and Alex provided a copy of some of his recent notes, including (on the second page)  "I always concern in humanity and science and never come back to Islam", "I need to leave Indonesia quickly" and "I need to be myself".  Alex also thanked his supporters: "Thank (you) for all my friend who support(ed) me all the way".

Alex's appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court is in process.  Atheist Alliance International is raising funds to support Alex's legal case and, separately, to assist him to study outside Indonesia after his release if possible.  If you would like to help Alex please donate here.

AAI's Top 10 Atheist / Religious Discrimination Stories of 2012

1.  The Rise of 'Nones' in the World

A survey released by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in late 2012 identified the Religiously Unaffiliated, or ‘Nones’ as the third largest ‘faith’ group in the world, 16% or 1.1 billion, approximately the same number as Catholics.  900 million of these unaffiliated reside in the Asia-Pacific region, where they make up an average 21.2% of the population. Europe is the next largest region then North America.  Latin America, Africa and the Middle East all lag behind, with 7.7%, 3.2%, and 0.6% of the populations identified as ‘Nones’.

A trending study by WIN-Gallup International in 2012 noted that religiosity is declining worldwide while atheism and non-belief are increasing.  Religiosity has fallen by 9 points just since 2005, while the number of atheists has almost doubled. The U.S., France, UK, Ireland, Canada as well as Vietnam are included in the top-10 list of countries to have experienced a "notable decline in religiosity" since 2005. 'Nones' tend to be younger than the overall population.

References: Pew Forum, Huffington Post, Time, LA Times, UK Census

2.  Islamic Religious Violence and Intimidation Explodes in Response to Offence

2012 was a year with multiple incidents where Islamist leaders reacted to criticism, mocking and attacks on their faith by fomenting and encouraging violence to express their displeasure. At the same time, Islamic nations cracked down on religious dissent in their own countries and again demanded that the UN adopt anti-blasphemy laws as a ‘human right’ (albeit the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has now abandoned this path - refer #9). Atheists were exceptionally vulnerable to these actions but the problem extends far beyond the atheist community, to the level of being an international menace that threatens not just free speech rights, but human lives and livelihoods.

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Secular World podcast #113 - no religious affiliation

“No religious affiliation” raises to over 1/5th of people in the USA; Free birth control cuts abortion rates by 62%; Why liberals and atheists are more intelligent; Proof of heaven; Catholic church to have tax exemptions removed in Italy; Listener mail, and; our interview with Jacques Rousseau, South African skeptic and atheist.  Enjoy it all here!

Tribute to Sheila Solarin

This tribute to Sheila Solarin, matron of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, was published in The Nation, Nigeria.

On Sunday, October 21, the co-founder of Mayflower School, Sheila Solarin passed away. Sheila like the late husband, Tai Solarin, was an educationist. She devoted her entire life to working and campaigning to improve the quality of education in Nigeria. And through her Mayflower Schools, she provided that high quality education to Nigerian children. I encountered Sheila not so much in her capacity as an educationist but more in her role as the matron of the Nigerian Humanist Movement(NHM). Very few Nigerians know about Sheila’s humanist credentials especially that she continued the tradition left behind by Tai of supporting secular education and also promoting the humanist outlook.

Read the full tribute here.

Catholic dogma kills Irish women

Shame on Ireland’s Catholic Bishops and our cowardly politicians. They could have protected the life of 31-year-old Savita Praveen Halappanavar, who tragically died last month in Galway after doctors denied her the right to abort an unviable foetus during a miscarriage.

Instead, while Savita was dying, the Catholic church was running an immoral propaganda campaign to mislead Irish people into believing that pregnant women will always get the medical care they need in Irish hospitals.

And Irish politicians were yet again refusing to legislate for abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman. They have now repeatedly refused to do this for twenty years, since the Irish courts established this right in the X case.

It took a raped pregnant teenager to establish this right in 1992. It should not have taken the death of a pregnant woman, twenty years later, to remind Irish politicians of their duty to legislate for that right. 

Read the full article here.

AAI Position Statement: Government Support For Religion

Following consultation with members, AAI is pleased to announce that it has finalised its position statement on government support for religion.  This statement is intended to provide a concise reference and coherent argument that members and other atheists may use in situations in their own countries, and refute the common accusation that 'atheists stand for nothing'.  Thank you everyone who contributed their views!  

Vale Paul Kurtz

The influential thinker known as the "father of secular humanism", Paul Kurtz, died on 20 October 2012 at age 86.  His numerous book, articles and talks substantially contributed to the development of secular, humanist values as an alternative worldview to religion, and encouraged people to think critically about religion and its impact on society.  This valuable work will be continued by many organisations that Paul Kurtz helped develop, including the American Humanist Association and the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Atheist Alliance International offers its condolences to Paul Kurtz' family, friends and colleagues.

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