The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after all these years, has finally come down hard on terrorism in their country - by declaring anyone who is an atheist, who associates with atheists, or even seeks information about atheism, to be criminals subject to criminal prosecution!
This, by a country that has not only openly encouraged and financed radical Islamist sects such as al-Qaeda for decades, but was also recently appointed to the UN's Human Rights Commission!
Don't let the Saudis get away with this. In a country where the Pew Research International estimates that 10-15% of Saudis are non-religious, this law will put millions of Saudi citizens at risk of arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, torture, and even execution.
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain would like to make public its support for Tom Holland’s Channel 4 documentary 'Islam: The Untold Story' . We are indignant to learn that due to threats made on Holland, Channel 4 has cancelled a repeat screening of the historical inquiry into the origins of Islam similar to the kind of inquiry that has been applied to other religions and histories in Britain for many years.
The threats and concerted attempt to stigmatise the documentary and its producers by attacking its credibility and even legitimacy as a field of inquiry is nothing less than an attempt to impose a blasphemy taboo by stealth and coercion against programming that scrutinises Islam.
Caving in to the coercive pressure of Islamists will have catastrophic effects on free inquiry and expression where it pertains to Islam. It would not only further silence academic, historical and theological scrutiny of Islam but would also have the chilling effect of exerting added pressure on Muslims and ex-Muslims who wish to dissent from and question Islam.
CEMB spokesperson Maryam Namazie says:
“Here’s my question to Channel 4: what about the threats on our lives for being apostates, ex-Muslims, atheists, freethinkers, secularists, 21st century human beings?
“What part of our thoughts, lives, and bodies do you recommend we cancel to appease the Islamists?
“If only there was such an ‘easy’ ‘solution’ for those who are languishing under Islam’s rules.
“You may accept censorship and cowardly silence in the face of Islamist threats and intimidation but we cannot afford to do so. And we never will.”
WEISBADEN, GERMANY - The introduction of Islamic religious education is approaching the finishing line in the German state of Hesse. These faith-oriented classes could begin in the 2013-2014 school year, Nicole Beer, minister of education and cultural affairs in Wiesbaden, said in March.
In their 2009 coalition agreement, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) introduced faith-oriented religious education into state schools. Students in many public schools already are required to attend classes about Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism, unless they receive permission to take a civics class instead. 
Beer said the religious education would take place in German; also, it would become a compulsory subject, determining whether students could move up grades. The CDU opposed adding the Islam classes.
According to an expert report, two Muslim regional associations, Ditib and Ahmadiyya, fulfill the necessary requirements. Jörg Uwe Hahn, minister of integration and Hessian FDP chairman, said in March he has always compared the introduction of such a religious education with a marathon. “Now Ditib and Ahmadiyya have reached the stadium again, but there are two or three more laps to run,” he said. The final decision could be made towards the end of the summer holidays.
On 30 August, four Brazilian atheists - including AAI Director Alexandre Shimono - met Michael Shermer at the release of his new book "The Believing Brain" in São Paulo, Brazil. Mr. Shermer kindly answered the following question:"What do you think of religious influence in Brazil?". You can see his answer in the video below (Portuguese subtitles).
No dia 30 de Agosto, quatro ateus brasileiros - incluindo o diretor da AAI Alexandre Shimono - compareceram ao lançamento do novo livro de Michael Shermer "Cérebro e Crença" (The Believing Brain) que ocorreu em São Paulo, Brasil. Shermer gentilmente respondeu a seguinte pergunta: "Qual sua opinião sobre a influência religiosa no Brasil?". A resposta pode ser conferida no vídeo abaixo (legendas em português).
Despite an outcry from the international musical community -- and in the face of accusations that the Russian Orthodox Church has its hands deeply in the pockets of President Vladimir Putin’s administration -- Judge Marina Syrova found members of the band Pussy Riot guilty of hooliganism for a protest in February.
International president Sanal Edamaruku of Delhi, India is now a fugitive from
the law for daring to expose a ‘miracle’ of the local Catholic church.
10 March, Sanal Edamaruku flew to Mumbai where a local TV channel had
invited him to investigate a “miracle” that caused local excitement. He went
with the TV team to Irla in Vile Parle to inspect the crucifix standing there
in front of the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni. For some days, there were
little droplets of water trickling from Jesus’ feet. The news of the miracle
spread like wild fire. Hundreds of people came every day to pray and collect
some of the “holy water” in bottles and vessels.
within minutes of arrival, Sanal Edamaruku quickly and clearly identified the
source of the water (a drainage near a washing room) and the mechanism how it
reached Jesus’ feet via capillary action.
The Enfield Board of Education in Connecticut, USA announced on July 18 it will no longer hold graduation ceremonies at First Cathedral Church in nearby Bloomfield, Connecticut, after a federal judge granted an injunction against holding the ceremony at the church in May, 2010.
Public high schools in the district had hosted graduations at the site for many years, according to an American Civil Liberties news release. The ceremony at the church took place near a stained glass cross and beneath banners reading "Jesus Christ is Lord" and "I am God," according to the ACLU release.
"Attending graduation meant going to church," the ACLU stated in the release.
A Minnesota-based minor-league baseball team, the St. Paul Saints, will host a "night of unbelievable fun" Aug. 10 -- and change their name to the Mr. Paul Aints for the evening.
The Saints, co-owned by actor Bill Murray, accept sponsorships from a number of sources, including religious groups. As a nod to atheist groups, they've accepted sponsorship from the Minnesota Atheists. The team will even sell shirts with the re-branded logo that night.
American Atheists President David Silverman will deliver the game's ceremonial pitch. Money raised will go to Volunteer Without Belief, according to the Minnesota Atheists website.
More information about the event can be found here.
Recently — and somewhat humorously — legislators
in Louisiana walked back their support of an educational voucher program that
allows parents to use public money to send their children to a number of
private institutions, including religious schools. For years, atheists,
agnostics and other non-Christians in the US have decried the voucher system as
a backdoor to institutionalized Christianity; at first blush, what happened in
Louisiana might be thought a small victory for freethinkers.
However, with an apparent blindness for
irony, legislators such as state Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Watson) withdrew their
support of the bill only after learning that religions other than Christianity would be
included in the program.
After withdrawing her support, Hodges told the Livingston Parish News, “We need
to ensure that [the voucher program] does not open the door to fund radical
Islam schools … I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere
here in Louisiana….I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of
America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools
or private schools.”
So as not to confuse an international
audience, allow me to say the idea that “America’s Founding Fathers’ religion”
was Christianity doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Some were inarguably devout and
outspoken Christians, but others were deists, and some were outspokenly agnostic/atheistic.
Moreover, regardless of what their religion may have been, the Constitution
they framed — by way of the First Amendment — clearly bars Congress from making any law
“respecting an establishment of religion” — Christian or otherwise. And that is
the legacy the Founding Fathers gave us to work with — not their beliefs, but
Globally, the survey found that 13% of people identify as atheists and a further 23% as non-religious, while 59% of people identify as religious. On a comparable basis, since the same question was asked in 2005, the number of people claiming to be religious has fallen by 9% while those specifically identifying as atheists rose by 3%.
The survey conducted by WIN-Gallup International, an established worldwide network of opinion pollsters, was based in interviews with more than 50,000 people across 57 countries, which collectively cover more than 73% of the world's population. The survey captures people's self-identification on the topic of religion, specifically including their identification as atheists. Key findings of the survey include:
Religiosity is higher among the poor: 66% of people in the lowest income group are religious compared to 49% in the highest income group,
A higher level of education is associated with lower religiosity: 68% of those with no or only a basic education identify as religious compared to 52% of those with higher than secondary school education,
Women are slightly more inclined to identify as atheists (14% globally) than men (12% globally)
The top 10 countries where people specifically identify as atheist are China (47%), Japan (31%), Czech Republic (30%), France (29%), South Korea (15%), Germany (15%), Netherlands (14%), Austria (10%), Iceland (10%) and Australia (10%). Ireland, Canada and Spain followed (10%, 9%, 9%),
The countries which illustrated the largest increases in identified atheists were France (+15%), Czech Republic (+10%), Japan (+8%), Ireland (+7%), Netherlands (+7%), Argentina (+5%), Germany (+5%) and the United States (+4%),
The largest declines in religiosity between 2005 and 2012 occurred in Vietnam (from 53% to 30%), Ireland (from 69% to 47%), France (from 58% to 37%), Switzerland (from 71% to 50%), South Africa (from 83% to 64%) and Ecuador (from 85% to 70%),
The most religious region of the world is Africa, with 89% of people identifying as religious, followed by Latin America at 84%. In the Arab World 77% identified as religious, although current volatile countries Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan were at 88%, 83% and 84% respectively,
The least religious regions of the world are North and East Asia, where only 17% and 39% of people, respectively, identified as religious. In Western Europe the figure was 51%, it was 66% in Eastern Europe and 57% in North America, and
The top 10 most religious countries are: Ghana (96%), Nigeria (93%), Macedonia (90%), Romania (85%), Kenya (88%), Peru (86%), Pakistan (84%), Moldova (83%), Colombia (83%) and Cameroon (82%).
A Kuwaiti man is in prison for 10 years for blasphemy after a post on Twitter, and, if Kuwait's parliament has its way, the next person to do it could face the death penalty.
Hamad al Naqi, a Shi'a, allegedly insulted Muhammad, his wives and his friends via Twitter. Naqi denies the accusations, saying his Twitter account was compromised, but still received 10 years in prison for the Tweets. 
Kuwaiti newspapers have run editorials condemning Naqi, and Sunni activists called for his death. In reaction, members of the Parliament of Kuwait called for the death penalty in future cases.  Naqi was denied bail and, according to Amnesty International, Naqi's attorney was not allowed to be present during the investigation phase of the trial.
Codified laws against blasphemy in Kuwait go back to a 1961 publications law, and the length of the jail term is based on the severity of the comments.
Though Naqi plans to appeal his conviction, and still maintains he did not write the offending messages, Naqi Is one of a number of online activists who have recently been detained for criticising religion or the Emir, and he also supported pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, led mainly by the Shiites. Kuwait’s Shiites make up about 30% of Kuwait's one million native citizens.
“In each people, a GENUINELY INDIGENOUS church” - image of the Conplei website - missionaries have no limits for cynicism.
Despite efforts from the Brazilian National Amerindian Foundation (known by its Portuguese acronym, FUNAI) prohibiting the presence of missionaries in areas populated by natives, the creeping influence of missionary groups has found new ways to infiltrate indigenous territory.
According to the 2010 Brazilian national census, the number of evangelical Amerindians grew 42% during the last 10 years, equivalent to 25% of the Amerindian population. This follows the overall growth of the evangelical church in Brazil: between 2000 and 2010, the number of evangelical believers grew 61%, to 22% of the Brazilian population.  The prohibition on the creation of new Missionary fronts in 1994 and the expulsion of all Missions from indigenous areas in 1991 stated by FUNAI did not convince evangelical churches to give up, instead they found a new way to accomplish their “holy” duty. 
Accused of a kind of psychological vandalism, three members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot face up to seven years in prison after a protest at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. On Monday, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich all pleaded not guilty to charges of hooliganism stemming from the February protest.
Pussy Riot's song at the event described an institutionalized corruption in the Russian Orthodox Church, and savaged President Vladimir Putin. Lyrics included, "Virgin Mary, mother of god, drive Putin out.” A video of the event shows nothing expressly violent in their actions. Mostly, they just danced the can-can. Nothing they did damaged the facade of the cathedral. They didn't even play loud music; they mimed a concert and later dubbed in the music. The cathedral, completed in 2000 as a glitzy recreation of the pre-revolutionary cathedral razed by the Soviets, represents, to many, the increased influence of the church in the nation's political hierarchy. Patriarch Kirill I, head of the church, once described Putin as "a miracle from God."
Pussy Riot has previously been critical of Putin's links to the church and its influence on his political decisions. Their history of very public criticism could make the situation all the more difficult for the three imprisoned women, who claim not to have been involved in the February protest. Putin himself may have a direct impact in the course of the trial, according to the BBC News.
On July 12, word spread that Safiyeh "Maryam" Gafuri had been hanged in a prison in Shiraz, Iran.
Prior to her death, prominent human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaie publicly called her innocent, but he and international human rights groups could not halt her execution. Maryam was sentenced to death under tribal law issued by judiciary authorities in Iran based on the Iranian Islamic Law. Below is Mostafaie's July 14 article about the incident, first posted by the Universal Tolerance Institute here.
Atheist Alliance International thanks everyone who has supported Alex Aan, the Indonesian atheist assaulted and arrested after posting 'God does not exist' and cartoons and articles about Islam on Facebook. In June 2012 Alex was jailed for 2 1/2 years and fined Rp 100 million (c. US$10,600).
A friend of Alex in Indonesia was able to visit Alex in jail in early July and provide him with all the messages of support AAI has received from around the world - including from Russia, Mauritius, Australia, Colombia, the United States of America, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Denmark, Scotland, Sweden, Canada, India and the Philippines. Alex greatly appreciates the support he continues to receive, saying in his note "Thanks for support and love, without this I feel alone."
Please support Alex
sending a message of support to Alex - email info [at] atheistalliance [dot] org with "Message for Alex" in the subject line. (Please remember that Alex is not a native English speaker and note that prison authorities will review any materials provided to Alex.)
sharing this page and posting "God Does Not Exist" on your
tweeting a message of support with hashtag #goddoesnotexist
signing this petition to urge US President Obama to call on the Indonesian government to release Alex [update: petition now closed]
While in the Sudan, no government-sanctioned stonings have been carried out, the sentence is a fact of life for people in countries that practice Sharia, or Islamic, law. Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, some parts of Nigeria and other a handful of others all have laws allowing stoning for adultery on the books. In the past, human rights groups have used political pressure to get all sentences of stoning in Sudan and some other countries with Sharia law to commute the sentence. However, some cases of stoning without legal backing have been reported in Sudan.
On 20 June the High Court of Australia decided the federal
government’s funding of religious chaplains in public schools was
unconstitutional. Shortly after, a bill was rushed through the House and the
Senate allowing the federal government to fund programs without legislative
The action that prompted these actions was the Williams v
Commonwealth case, which challenged the federal government’s right to fund
religious chaplains in public schools, through The National School Chaplaincy
The NSCP, as described in a previous article ‘Chaplaincy in
Australian Public Schools' has been criticised by the Australian
Psychological Society, the Australian Guidance and Counsellors Association and
parents such as Ron Williams, who brought the case to the High Court. A
majority of the criticisms relate to the inadequate qualifications of the
chaplains and the legality of religious teaching in public schools.
The High Court’s decision was 6-1 in favour of Ron Williams,
based on technical grounds: that the government could not spend money on
programs without supporting legislation. As such, the government’s funding of
the NSCP was found unconstitutional.
While the decision was welcomed by secular activists, the
reasoning behind it disappoints – Williams had also challenged the chaplains
program on the basis that s116 of the Australian constitution prohibits a
“religious test” for public office, a key clause in the fight for separation of
church and state. The High Court
dismissed the claim on that basis and effectively maintained Australia’s non-separation
of church and state, a poor position that has endured since the Defence of
Government Schools case in 1981.