Russian Duma Attempts To Legalize Government-Paid Security for Church Patriarch

Understanding the importance of the protection of the life and safety of all citizens of Russia, including that of the religious leaders in our country, the Good Sense (Zdravomislie) Public Fund has met the news of the upcoming amendments to our secular law with alarm.

The Public Fund Good Sense learned that the government of Russia initiated an amendment in the state Duma of the Russian Federation in the form of bill № 586178­5, containing a clause to expand the list of individuals being protected by government, with taxpayers money, to include an unspecified number of people that do not have any relation to government service or the functioning of the state. Among those listed in the expanded list was the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This bill was apparently created in order to legalize the state security which has been provided for the church Patriarch for many years now without any legal basis.

In relation to this, the Good Sense Foundation addresses an open letter to the President of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, in which we ask him to answer two questions:

1) Will somebody be held accountable for the violation of legal principles that have been going on for a number of years?

2) How does the government’s initiative to support just one out of many religious organizations registered in Russia correspond with the secular nature of our state, as indicated in our national constitution?

The Fund is also addressing a letter to the head of the dedicated Security Committee in the State Duma, Vasiliev V.A, with a request to act out of a sense for public consent in terms of ethnic and religious cross-relations when discussing the bill. We also ask that the Duma keep the secular basis of our national constitution in mind when determining what private Russian citizens should be eligible to receive government-paid security protection.

Nigeria: Where religion is big busines

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14573660

An increasing number of Nigeria's 70 million Christians are followers of the prosperity teachings - the belief that prosperity is a sign of spiritual blessing. Services are held in megachurches that hold thousands, with millionaire pastors preaching the word.

A lady scrolls down the screen of her tablet PC as she reads the Bible along with the rest of the congregation, a huge diamond-encrusted ring shining on her finger.

Hanging from the ceiling of the Household of God Church are several chandeliers, lighting up a plush 5,000-seat auditorium.

A water fountain hisses in the distance, though it is only heard when the dazzling character on stage singing passionately and occasionally speaking in tongues falls into silence.

This is the Reverend Chris Okotie, a former pop star turned pastor, businessman and politician.

A recent Forbes rich list included him among Nigeria's five wealthiest pastors, with assets of anywhere between $3m and $10m. But is he truly this rich?

"Possibly," he replies, with his giant multi-coloured Jacob & Co brand wristwatch shining from the end of his sleeve.

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From Dust to Evolution: Bridging Science in Africa Against Traditions

It is almost a year since the Al Shabab militia penetrated the Kenyan borders and caused havoc to international aid organizations. Aside from planting grenades in Eastliegh, they dropped grenades on to children’s playing fields, and many explosions were witnessed in Kenya around this time in 2010. Incidences pile up on the ‘yet to be investigated’ as the government assures its citizens, whereas nothing much is done on that front.

The Al Shabab incidence in Mogadishu consumed four of my relatives and left a huge gap in my family life. I lost people who contributed to my purpose of living. My wife founded and ran the Abu-Bakr Foundation, an organization that was permitted to distribute medical Aid in Somalia and Sudan, and apparently she was blasted in the name of Allah.

Sad memories. But I just recently met some refugees and some of these were Somalis who had benefited in great length from the hand of the Foundation. They were expecting me to have transformed into joining their religious ideologues, leaving the path of those who are astray, for my son had a Muslim name. Mostly so, they expected the magnitude of loss to have influenced my practice into softer relenting. Either I was destined to become a Rasta or some religious icon. But the JAF Festival disappointed many to a great length, and in my inbox, I started receiving questions related to my atheism. For example, where did mankind originate? And my understanding of the phrase, from dust we came and to dust we shall return. They were bothered by my theorem of no afterlife and no day of judgment, and astonishingly warned me thoroughly of misfortunes that could be planted in my path, for I am a disgrace to the African race.

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Humanists to Meet in Abuja

All is now set for the historic convention of the Nigerian Humanist Movement to be held on September 23 to 24 at Vines Hotel Durumi in Abuja. The event will be the first meeting of the county’s growing community of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers,secularists and skeptics at the Federal Capital of Nigeria. Many friends of humanists and supporters of humanism and freethought including university teachers and students will attend. The theme of the convention is HUMANISM AS THE NEXT STEP.

This convention marks the 15th anniversary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM). 

The event is taking place at a crucial time Nigeria is grappling with the problems of religious extremism, superstition and related human rights abuses.

Some years ago Nigeria was polled as one the most religious nation on earth. It may still remain the case today. The fact is that most Nigerians, at least nominally, profess one religion-mainly Christianity or Islam- or the other. Most Nigerians identify with the faith of their families, communities and tribes. Few Nigerians are openly and expressly non religious. All Nigerians are pressured socially and politically to be religious and to remain religious. So most Nigerians who are non religious and who renounce religion remain in the closet. NHM provides a sense of community to all non religious and non theistic Nigerians and strives to bring a humanist perspective to issues of national importance.

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Oyedepo, Oyakhilome, Ashimolowo, Others Come Under Attack At Humanist Forum in Abuja; Sheila Solarin Urges Nigerian To Fight for A Better Society

Sent to AAI from its Affiliate the Nigerian Humanist Movement. Originally published in Sahara Reporters.

Stupendously wealthy Nigerian Pentecostal preachers and clerics have come under serious attack at the two-day national convention of the   Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM), which ended Saturday afternoon in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

The forum brought together students, children, scholars, government officials, atheists, sceptics, rationalists, agnostics, freethinkers and professionals from different fields to discuss Humanism as the next step in Nigeria.

Declaring open the forum which marked the 15th anniversary of the birth of  the NHM, Leo Igwe, the administrative secretary of the Oyo State –NHM,  told  participants that many people  across  Nigeria and the world  were looking up to them. “Meetings like this should spread message of reason, science and free inquiry, and usher in an era  of positive  and progressive change, hope and light,” he charged.

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Jewish Ladies: Step Aside For The Men

Yet another example of entrenched sexism within religion....and a failure to understand what "freedom of speech" actually means.  Originally published in the New York Daily News:  http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2011/10/11/2011-10-11_city_in_signoff_removal_of_posts_irks_hasid_nabe.html

City workers have removed signs warning women in a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn to step aside for men.

But the Parks Department says the teardowns in South Williamsburg had nothing to do with the message itself; it's just illegal to post signs on street trees.

"We do not know who put up the signs," said Parks spokeswoman Trish Bertuccio.

The large signs started popping up in the neighborhood more than a week ago. They had a Yiddish message that translates as: "Precious Jewish daughter, please move to the side when a man approaches."

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What does an atheist do on 25 December?

Well, frankly that's up to you!

Far from the grumpy and miserable sentiments sometimes attributed to atheists at this time of year, we see AAI's members happily celebrating with family and friends.

"It's simple, we celebrate Santa Claus!” 
Barbara

"Open presents, eat, visit family - what humans have been doing for thousands of years to celebrate the return of longer days!”    
Paul [presumably in the northern hemisphere!]

"Isaac Newton, the founder of western civilization, was born Dec 25, 1642. At our house we celebrate "Newtonmass" on Dec 25. In the morning we do optics experiments, in the afternoon we do differentials and integrals, and in the evening we scoff at alchemy and biblical chronology. It makes for an interesting day."
Peter 

Whatever you do or don't do to celebrate the holiday season let us know at info [at] atheistalliance [dot] org!

Saudi Arabia Executes Women Convicted of Sorcery

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi authorities have executed a woman convicted of practicing magic and sorcery.

The Saudi Interior Ministry says in a statement the execution took place Monday, but gave no details on the woman's crime.

The London-based al-Hayat daily, however, quoted Abdullah al-Mohsen, chief of the religious police who arrested the woman, as saying she had tricked people into thinking she could treat illnesses, charging them $800 per session.

The paper said a female investigator followed up, and the woman was arrested in April, 2009, and later convicted in a Saudi court.

It did not give the woman's name, but said she was in her 60s.

The execution brings the total to 76 this year in Saudi Arabia, according to an Associated Press count. At least three have been women.

The Latest Catholic Church Atrocities

Here we go again.

This weekend, the Dutch government released its own report on the sexual abuses of the Catholic Church in its country, slamming the Vatican for tens of thousands of Dutch children being raped by Catholic priests over the past 65 years as well as the now-well-established pattern of church hierarchy coverup and denials. This follows equally scathing reports in recent years from the United States, Canada, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, and other countries that have also documented widespread cases of children suffering at the hands of Catholic clergy and others working at church institutions.  Based on these reports and the lack of substantial accountability held against the Catholic church, abuse victims rightly called on the International Criminal Court in September to investigate the pope and top Vatican cardinals for possible crimes against humanity.

The Dutch Catholic Archbishop Wim Eijk responded to the report by offering to buy off the victims, offering anywhere from €5,000 to €100,000 “depending on the nature of the abuse”.

Presumably without irony, he said he felt personally ashamed of the abuse. "It is terrible," he said.

How "Christian" of him.

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A Flying Teapot Taking Off, or, Good News from Brazilian Atheism

From the Secular Humanist League of Brazil, an AAI Affiliate Member:
http://flyingteapot.haaan.com/2011/08/10

One year and a half has passed since the foundation of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil, LiHS, the owner of this debuting blog. So many things have happened since then that I am caught in the vertigo of loads of long term memory yet to be consolidated. (And my routine as a rebel sleeper has most certainly something to do with that.)

I remember vividly my dream of taking Brazil and more of Latin America to the global secularist community, especially reaching IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union). Well, we did it! And it happened last week, when our international relations director Daniel Martin traveled from France to Norway (yes, to Oslo, the site of that conservative Christian terrorist attack) to attend the General Assembly in the World Humanist Congress, where we were approved as members of IHEU. Also, before that, LiHS joined the Atheist Alliance International.

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Four Killed in Religious Rioting in Nigerian City

JOS, Nigeria (AP) — Authorities say at least four people were killed in a riot in a central Nigerian city that is beset by religious and ethnic tensions.

Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency said the fighting began Monday in Jos after Muslims began praying in a predominantly Christian neighborhood in the city. Officials with a local Muslim group said the unidentified attackers used knives, machetes and bows and arrows.

Witnesses say more than 50 vehicles and 100 motorcycles were set ablaze during the fighting. Army and police moved into the affected neighborhood late Monday.

Jos sits in the Nigeria's "middle belt," where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands and political and economic power. Nigeria is largely divided into a Christian south and Muslim north.

Being Pakistani and atheist a dangerous combo, but some ready to brave it

Originally published in Pakistan Today

Members of Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics trying to make their presence known and reach out to others sharing similar beliefs
 
KARACHI - They realise that they belong to a country where apostasy means inviting the risk of death – even if spared by government authorities and courts, a fanatic mob would certainly not.

But they have still chosen to tread a perilous path in their attempt to reach out to other Pakistanis sharing similar beliefs and more importantly, to let the world know they exist. They are a group of Pakistani atheists called the Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics (PAA). They first tried to make their presence known two years back by making a page about their group on Facebook. On August 14 this year, they launched their website www.e-paa.org that was literally an instant hit. It received more than 17,000 hits in just 48 hours after its launch from 95 countries, including Saudi Arabia.
 
How did the idea to bring together Pakistani atheists on a single platform come up? “When I became an atheist, I honestly thought there were no others like me in Pakistan. Through discussions on various social networking groups and forums, I found a few others like me. So we decided to make this group to find out how many more were out there,” says Hazrat NaKhuda, one of the founding members of the group. For obvious reasons, the PAA members go by pseudonyms to protect their identity.

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Israeli Wins Right to be Classed as 'No Religion'

AFP, Oct. 2 - An Israeli writer has won a historic court victory granting his request to be officially registered as "without religion" rather than "Jewish," Israeli newspaperHaaretz reported on Sunday.

Yoram Kaniuk turned to the courts in May after the interior ministry refused to alter his official religious status from Jewish to "without religion," Haaretz said.

And last week, a Tel Aviv court sided with his demand, ruling that Israeli law allows citizens to be officially registered as having no religion.

"Freedom from religion is a freedom derived from the right to human dignity, which is protected by the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom," Haaretz quoted the ruling as saying.

Israel registers its citizens according to both their religion and their ethnicity, although it does not include an "Israeli" ethnicity, labelling its Jewish citizens as of "Jewish" ethnicity. That has raised the ire of secular groups who have petitioned the interior ministry for years to replace the Jewish ethnicity label with an Israeli one.

 

 

 

Catholic Church in India Says Have More Children

NEW DELHI (AP) -- Worried about its dwindling numbers, the Roman Catholic church in southern India is exhorting its flock to have more children, with some parishes offering free schooling, medical care and even cash bonuses for large families, church officials said Tuesday.

The strategy comes as India's population tops 1.2 billion, making it the second most populous country in the world after China, and runs counter to a national government policy of limiting family size.

."The Christian community in Kerala is dwindling. We realized that if the numbers decreased further, it would have a negative impact on the community," said Babu Joseph, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India in New Delhi. So Kerala's Catholic parishes have launched a variety of programs, from free education to free medical care, said the Rev. Jose Kottayil of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council.

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Debt-Stricken Italy Asks Vatican to Pay Taxes

The Roman Catholic Church in Italy is under growing pressure to start paying taxes on its massive property portfolio, in a move that could raise up to 800 million euros (£680 million) a year and help bail the country out of its economic crisis.

As the new technocrat government of Mario Monti seeks to slash the nation’s 1.9 trillion euro debt, attention is turning to the estimated 65,000 buildings owned by the Church. According to an estate agency, Gruppo RE, a fifth of publicly owned properties in Italy are directly or indirectly controlled by the Church.  They include around 50,000 cathedrals, churches and chapels — which would retain their tax-free status — but 11,000 schools, universities and libraries as well as nearly 5,000 hospitals, clinics and other commercial properties would face the tax. All church properties, including those having a commercial element, have been exempt from taxes since 1982, with an extension put in place in 2006.  But critics say the proposed law contains loopholes which can easily be exploited. If a Church-owned property such as a hotel contains a chapel, for instance, it is spared the tax.

The Church has long argued that it should be exempt from paying the property tax because it provides important social services through its schools, hospitals and community centres. “The Church supports the weakest of society and performs an activity in favour of society,” said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

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Goodbye Hitch

Atheist Alliance International mourns the death of the incomparable Christopher Hitchens.

 

Defiling the memory of the holocaust in Israel

By Greg Fish.  Originally published on the World of Weird Things blog.

If you’ve ever visited r/atheism or any major atheist and skeptic sites, you’re probably well aware of the martyr complex, the guilt trip used by religious fundamentalists who believe that not being allowed to impose the will of their leaders on the rest of the society they inhabit, is tantamount to persecution. In the United States this is often played out in attempts to institute public prayer, force the government to somehow declare a preference for Christianity as the national religion, or at least as the preferred religion of the state. In Israel, ultra-Orthodox communities’ demands to segregate and control the nation have far more severe consequences. Their towns in West Bank settlements are quickly becoming security hazards according to growing voices from the IDFand lately, they’ve gone overboard by invoking the history of Jewish persecution in Europe in a way that I could only describe as downright shameful. Jewish history is filled with stories of being chased out of counties and hunted down by members of other faiths. and those stories are quoted on a regular basis. But not like this.

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