He Needs Money

       
 Valdemiro Santiago         Sillas Malafaia Edir Macedo
 (Investigated for (Politically active (Suspicion of larceny, 
  improper use of  minister) embezzlement and 
  donated money) money laundering)

"Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!  But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money!
George Carlin


As funny (or not) as the quote above may be, the point about “needing money” is certainly pertinent in Brazil where many religious institutions enjoy a friendly tax environment and operate profitably. Recently, a scandal involving a large religious institution (Igreja Mundial), suspiciously broadcasted (that is an inference by the writer) by an open TV channel owned by a rival church (Igreja Universal), showed that minister Valdemiro Santiago bought properties in the state of Mato Grosso with a total value of 50 million Reais (c.  US$25 million).  These properties were registered in the name of the church (and therefore tax exempt)[1]. Santiago is now being investigated by the public prosecutor for the improper use of donated money, and because many of his temples have eviction orders for non-payment[1].

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Religious circumcision an assault on boys

This article was originally published in the Huffington Post.

BERLIN -- A German court has ruled that circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to bodily harm even if parents consent to the procedure.

Cologne state court said the child's right to physical integrity trumps freedom of religion and parents' rights, German news agency dapd reported Tuesday.

The case involved a doctor accused of carrying out a circumcision on a 4-year-old that led to medical complications. The doctor was acquitted, however, and prosecutors said they won't appeal.

The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, called the ruling "unprecedented and insensitive," urging the country's parliament to clarify the legal situation "to protect religious freedom against attacks."

Graumann said the circumcision of newborn Jews has been practiced for thousands of years and "every country in the world respects this religious right."

Muslims also circumcise young boys, while many parents request it on health grounds.

Read the full article here.

School Vouchers v. Establishment Clause

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 our Constitution.

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American Baseball Team Goes Atheist for an Evening

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.

ACLU decision means schools must hold graduations in non-denominational locations

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.

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The Crime of Debunking in Delhi, India

Rationalist 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.

On 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.

But 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.

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Thank you eBay Giving Works donors!

Atheist Alliance International thanks the donors who have used eBay Giving Works to donate a proportion of their sale proceeds to AAI!  We appreciate the support.  

Items for sale that support AAI are listed here and you can find more information about eBay Giving Works here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.thecultofmargaret.org

Pussy Riot women guilty of hooliganism, will serve two years

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.

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Michael Shermer in Brazil

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).

(Technical) victory in Court, failure in Parliament

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 scrutiny.

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 Program (NSCP).

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.

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Woman Sentenced to Death by Stoning for Adultery in Sudan

Activist groups such as the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies are calling for the release of a 23-year-old Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery July 10. 

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. 

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"Without this I feel alone" - Alex Aan


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 by:

  • 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 Facebook wall
  • 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]
  • writing to the Indonesian authorities to condemn Alex's jail sentence and calling for a repeal of
  • Indonesia's blasphemy laws so this does not happen to anyone else

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Women raped, tortured and hanged to save son of Imam in Iran, may have been innocent

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.

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Hands of Putin and Orthodox Church pulling strings in Pussy Riot arrests

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. 

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Indian Missionaries Target Brazil's Amerindians

“In each people, a GENUINELY INDIGENOUS church” - image of the Conplei website[1] - 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. [2]  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. [3] 

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Kuwaiti man receives 10 years in prison for tweets while the Parliament of Kuwait mulls the death penalty for blasphemy

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. [1]

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. [2] 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.

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Global survey finds fewer religious people, more atheists

A recently released global survey on religion and atheism has found that atheism is on the rise and religiosity is declining.
 
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%).