I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT

Last month, Brendan Nyhan, a professor of political science at Dartmouth, published the results of a study that he and a team of pediatricians and political scientists had been working on for three years. They had followed a group of almost two thousand parents, all of whom had at least one child under the age of seventeen, to test a simple relationship: Could various pro-vaccination campaigns change parental attitudes toward vaccines? Each household received one of four messages: a leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there had been no evidence linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism; a leaflet from the Vaccine Information Statement on the dangers of the diseases that the M.M.R. vaccine prevents; photographs of children who had suffered from the diseases; and a dramatic story from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an infant who almost died of measles. A control group did not receive any information at all. The goal was to test whether facts, science, emotions, or stories could make people change their minds.

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Ads on 20 Metro buses in the nation’s capital link Adolf Hitler with Islam, portraying “Islamic Jew-hatred.”

Washington -  Ads on 20 Metro buses in the nation’s capital link Adolf Hitler with Islam, portraying “Islamic Jew-hatred.”

The ads, placed by American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), show a photo of Hitler conversing with “his staunch ally” Haj Amin al-Husseini, grand mufti of Jerusalem during WWII. The ads are scheduled to run until mid-June according to AFP.

“Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran. Two-thirds of all US aid goes to Islamic countries. Stop racism. End all aid to Islamic countries,” states the ad, in addition to a disclaimer from the Metro transit authority.

Metro says they cannot remove the ads based on a case from 2012 that states bus advertisements are included in free speech protected by the Constitution.

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Humanist Foundation Reaches Out to Religious Groups, Testing a Divide

Six months after starting a humanist charity in 2010, Dale McGowan unveiled a philanthropist’s version of a beta test. He already offered donors to his organization, the Foundation Beyond Belief, the opportunity to designate their gifts for groups that worked in fields like refugee aid and environmentalism. Then, in an contrarian brainstorm, he decided to try adding a category for progressive religious bodies.

He thought he had found the perfect test case with Quaker Peace and Social Witness, part of the British branch of the Society of Friends. Here was a nondogmatic denomination with a longstanding commitment to pacifism, racial equality and economic fairness. What, even for atheists, agnostics and freethinkers, was there not to like?

Well, Mr. McGowan soon enough found out. “No way am I going to give my money to groups that will use it to hit my kids over the head with a Bible,” wrote one member in an email as he cut off his financial support. A blogger on the site No Forbidden Q uestions put the objections somewhat more elegantly: “While I’m happy to hear when people move away from fundamentalism toward a more liberal understanding of religion, I think it would be best if people became (or stayed) atheist, and that’s the goal I want to support.”

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Women in secularism: Got a problem with that?

 By Kimberly Winston

 That’s the question that launched the first “Women in Secularism” conference three years ago and one that will be closely re-examined at the third annual iteration of the event, being held this weekend (May 16-18) in Alexandria, Va.

“I don’t think much has changed,” said Melody Hensley, executive director of the Washington branch of the Center For Inquiry, a humanist organization that organizes the event. “I think things are very divided.”

Hensley, a longtime feminist and secular activist, speaks from experience. About 18 months ago, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a vicious flood of online and social media attacks that included threats of rape, murder and photographs of dismembered women.

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Boycott launched against openly gay St Louis Rams player Michael Sam, by Christian lobbyist Jack Burkman

A powerful Christian lobbyist in the US has delivered on his threat to launch a nationwide boycott against any team or company which hires Michael Sam, after the NFL’s first openly gay player was drafted by the St Louis Rams on Sunday.

In a move which he said will teach companies a lesson for “trampling on Christian values”, Jack Burkman has also aimed his protest against financial giant Visa, who gave Mr Sam his first advertising contract. 

A coalition of evangelical Christian leaders from across the US, as well as influential grassroots organisations in 27 of the 50 states, have now been mobilised against the firms, according to Mr Burkman.

As part of the protest, Rams fans will be told to stop buying the team’s merchandise and not to attend games, while members of the public will be asked stop using their Visa cards, and to sell any of the company's stocks they may own.

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