Bill Maher 1, Ben Affleck 0

By: Michael Tomasky 

The Real Time host’s spat with the 'Gone Girl' star gets to the heart of a major and longtime problem within contemporary Western liberalism

Every once in a great while, something happens on television that you know while you’re watching it: Well, this is unusual. Those old enough to know what I’m talking about when I say “Al Campanis”  will remember that that was one of your more extreme cases. The exchange between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck on last Friday’s Real Time wasn’t a Campanis moment, but I knew instantly—watching it in, well, real time, as it were—that this was going to spark discussion,  as indeed it has.

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Teen Faces Jail for Lewd Pose with Jesus Statue

 A Pennsylvania teenager faces up to two years behind bars after posting pictures to Facebook in which he simulates receiving oral sex from a statue of Jesus.

The unnamed 14-year-old says he posed with the statue, which sits outside a Christian organization in Everett, Pennsylvania, called Love in the Name of Christ, in late July. The pictures are being used as evidence that the teen may be guilty of desecrating an object of veneration.



Debating Mormonism: Why and How

WRITTEN BY LIZ EMERY, AAI NEWS TEAM

Atheists long enjoyed watching Christopher Hitchens “slap” believers, especially during formal public debates. But debaters accepting Hitch’s baton must likewise prepare diligently or get “slapped” themselves during debates. In the following article, Liz Emery offers valuable insider’s advice to atheists intent on debating Mormons. Raised and homeschooled by Mormon parents in Utah, Liz served in multiple Church leadership roles and was accepted to study at Bringham Young University. She instead attended Utah State University, where she wrote a weekly column for the university’s newspaper. Today she lives in Chicago, but continues to study the Mormon Church.

 

The recent debate between biblical literalist Ken Hamm and scientist Bill Nye has raised an old question: Is it useful for atheists to debate believers, or do debates give unnecessary validity to irrational arguments? Religious arguments rest solely on faith, not scientific evidence, and debate formats do not allow secularists to conduct a course on epistemology. Victor Stenger has argued convincingly that debates favor Christian apologists who regularly perform in front of audiences and that atheists face a formidable task in preparing properly.

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An atheist for Congress?

By Carlos S. Moreno

According to CNN, this fall, for the first time in U.S. history, an openly atheist candidate is running for Congress. James Woods is fighting an uphill battle as a Democrat seeking to represent the very Republican 5th Congressional District in Arizona.

There are now no openly atheist members of Congress, even though nearly 20% of Americans report having no religious affiliation, according to the Pew Research Center, and between 5% and 10% of Americans do not believe in a supreme being.

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CATHOLIC UNIVERSITIES HAVE BEEN PAYING FOR ABORTIONS ALL ALONG

According to Religion Dispatches, after three years of nearly constant Sturm und Drang on the part of U.S. bishops over the contraception mandate comes word that some of the same Catholic universities have been covering abortions all along. Loyola Marymount’s insurance plan, as its president recentlyconfirmed, has included elective abortion coverage for the past 25 years.

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Pas de taxes pour le bon Dieu

Alors que le ministre de l’Éducation sabre dans les services d’orthopédagogie et l’achat de volumes et que les municipalités coupent dans les régimes de retraite, l’Église ne paye ni taxes scolaires, ni taxes municipales sur la valeur de son patrimoine immobilier, pourtant évalué à plusieurs milliards de dollars.

Alors que le ministre de l’Éducation sabre dans les services d’orthopédagogie et l’achat de volumes et que les municipalités coupent dans les régimes de retraite, l’Église ne paye ni taxes scolaires, ni taxes municipales sur la valeur de son patrimoine immobilier, pourtant évalué à plusieurs milliards de dollars.

Les groupes religieux de toutes croyances sont très actifs partout  au Québec. À preuve, on y dénombre plus de 4 000 lieux de culte public répartis sur le territoire québécois. Si l’Église catholique ne domine plus le paysage comme autrefois, le nombre d’emplacements occupés par les autres religions est globalement supérieur à cette dernière. Or, il faut savoir que les édifices à vocation religieuse bénéficient d’une exemption totale du paiement des taxes scolaires et municipales, en vertu de l’article 204 de la Loi sur la fiscalité.  Cet article est libellé comme suit:

«Un immeuble compris dans une unité d’évaluation inscrite au nom d’une corporation épiscopale, d’une fabrique, d’une institution religieuse ou d’une Église constituée en personne morale, et qui sert principalement soit à l’exercice du culte public, soit comme palais épiscopal, soit comme presbytère, à raison d’un seul par église, de même que ses dépendances immédiates utilisées aux mêmes fins.»

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WESOLOWSKI SEXUAL ABUSE CASE A NEW APPROACH OR SAME OLD SAME OLD?

According to the article from Religion Dispatches, former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, ambassador of the Vatican to the Dominican Republic, is now a layperson awaiting criminal trial in the Vatican for sexual abuse of young people. After intensive negative press, the Vatican announced on August 25 that since he was no longer in their service, Wesolowski is not covered under diplomatic immunity and could potentially be extradited presumably to either his native Poland or the D.R. where he had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. There’s always more to a story than meets the eye, and in this case it isn’t pretty.

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Christian groups ‘violently offended’ about ‘Black Jesus’ TV series

According to NY Daily News, Jesus Christ is alive and kicking it with his followers in Compton, Calif., in Adult Swim’s new comedy series. But some Christians are not amused. One Million Moms and other conservative groups are attempting to organize a boycott of the show and its advertisers.

Do ya’ll have any f-----g faith, brah?”, asks Black Jesus from homeless guy in the first episode.

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Film Review: Contradiction

WRITTEN BY MARK KOLSEN, GUEST WRITER FOR AAI NEWS TEAM

In Contradiction, Jeremiah Camara’s intelligent film about religion’s seduction of African-Americans, Lawrence Krauss says “the rise of non-belief is the rise of science.”

Krauss refers of course to natural sciences like cosmology and evolutionary biology, disciplines now giving us empirically based theories for the origin of the universe and man; and to social sciences like sociology and psychology, which are now explaining how the brain generates religious beliefs and behaviors. These new scientific discoveries, Camara recognizes, “are clashing with biblical doctrine,” and exposing the contradiction between truth and African-Americans’ irrationality. In the film – to take just one example – we hear the muddled African-American view that god must have created us, that we could not have evolved from “monkeys” because on earth “we still have monkeys.” This illogic is followed by Richard Dawkins’ concise, scientific explanation of the human family tree. 

Contradiction seamlessly mixes this science with history. Camara traces religion’s stranglehold over African-Americans’ reason (today 76% of all African-Americans say they pray daily) to the institution of slavery, when African-Americans either went to church or faced their masters’ wrath. Slaves adopting Christian beliefs and attending Christian churches received special treatment, even if the ‘beliefs’ were dictated by their masters. And Camara nicely documents the similarities and differences between the roles religious belief and churches have served in African-Americans’ lives.

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Creationist Ken Ham calls to end space program because aliens are going to hell anyway


Creationist Ken Ham has said that the U.S. space program is a waste of money because any alien life that scientists found would be damned to hell.

“I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life,” Ham wrote in the Christian website called Answers in Genesis.

According to The Raw Story, Ham argued that “secularists are desperate to find life in outer space” as a part of their “rebellion against God in a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution.”

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Intuition and Humanism: A Dilemma for Science?

WRITTEN BY CHRIS K, AAI NEWS TEAM

What do you get when you cross a computer scientist with humanism? Naturalistic transcendentalism, of course.

Naturalistic transcendentalism, a nascent humanist philosophical approach, is the brainchild of Peter Bishop, PhD, a long-time humanist who worked in the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley. Bishop, who spoke at the recent American Humanist Association (AHA) meeting in Philadelphia, noted that transcendentalism gained traction in the 19th century, primarily from the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. But Emerson’s philosophical approach, which had room for intuition, lost favor in the next century to science, the philosophy of science, and humanism.

“As we look at these issues today, we notice that our naturalism is much more complex than it was in the early 19th century,” Bishop said. “Naturalism today is so oriented toward scientific thinking that modern science has declared that human intuition should not be studied until we can understand the natural law that causes it to work.”

But naturalistic transcendentalism does not accept this view. Rather, Bishop’s philosophical approach deems it “appropriate to study intuition using the most powerful observations that exist of intuition: our subjective observations of our inner beings.” However, science measures what it can observe and subjective experience cannot be observed from an external vantage point. If scientists alone cannot study the personal experiences of intuition (or other subjective experiences), who else can? Bishop suggested turning to the humanities for help, as these disciplines “deal more with the subjective lives of people than do the sciences.”

Reason, Emotion, Intuition

One of the first steps along this path is to acknowledge that the human spirit is real, Bishop said. In other words, one’s subjective experience should be considered valid. The scientist can record the subjective experience as an event, but should not attempt to determine its meaning merely from its observation. This way, “we can remain on solid scientific footing.”

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