Nonreligious Scouts offered badge to protest Boy Scout bigotry

Boyscout BadgetiltMadison, WI - AAI Affiliate Freedom From Religion Foundation is unveiling a freethought badge to reward young nonbelievers and challenge the Boy Scouts of America's discrimination against the nonreligious.
 
The badge, featuring a red "A" based on a symbol of atheism and agnosticism popularized by distinguished scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins, is being issued in collaboration with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.  The Boy Scouts of America formally discriminates against nonreligious boys and their families, officially excluding atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers. Currently, the organization maintains "that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God."
 
"The Freedom From Religion Foundation maintains instead that no one who discriminates against the nonreligious can grow into the best kind of citizen," says FFRF co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor, who is co-president of FFRF with her husband Dan Barker.
 
"It's what you do — not what you believe — that makes you a good person," adds Barker, a former evangelical minister who is also co-founder of The Clergy Project, a support group for ministers who lose their faith.
FFRF, at the urging of its member Richard Kirschman, has produced a badge similar to the Boy Scouts' merit badges, which are typically sewn on uniforms or sashes.
 
Scouts who wish to earn this badge are asked to help disprove the group's misguided claim that nonbelievers cannot be good citizens. The requirements, paralleling typical merit badge requirements, ask Scouts to learn about secularism and the rich history of dissent from religion.

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In The Beginning...Was Atheism

Socrates was accused of atheism - which he denied
Earliest evidence for atheism predates Jesus by at least 500 years, Cambridge professor argues
 
A new Cambridge University study argues that atheism is in fact one of the world's oldest religions – long predating Christianity and Islam.
 
Far from being the result of scientific breakthroughs or modern mass education, the belief that there were no gods was relatively common in the ancient world, research by Prof Tim Whitmarsh, a leading Cambridge classicist, concludes.
 
But the "ancient atheism" was effectively written out of history after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire after the reign of Constantine in the early 4th Century, heralding a new era of state-imposed belief, Prof Whitmarsh, Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge, argues.

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Gambian President Declares an Islamic State

Map of GambiaThis week, the river nation of The Gambia is celebrating its 51st year of independence. The question is whether it is doing so as Africa's second official Islamic state.
 
"In line with the country's religious identity and values, I proclaim The Gambia as an Islamic state," President Yahya Jammeh declared in December. "Accepting Allah's religion as your religion and as your way of life is not negotiable."
 
Pakistan, Iran, and fellow African nation Mauritania also identify themselves as Islamic states.
 
However, the claim has drawn ire from opposition and pro-democracy groups.
 
Jammeh said the decision to declare the country an Islamic state was a response to the current reality in Gambia, a British colony until 1965.
 
"As Muslims are the majority in the country, Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy," he said.
 
Bounded by the overwhelmingly Muslim Senegal, Christians make up about 5 percent of Gambia's 1.7 million population. More than half of this group is Catholic, while Protestants make up 1.5 percent of the total population, according to 2010 data from the Pew Research Center's Global Religious Futures project.
 
Gambia's opposition leader objected to the announcement, arguing that Gambia is a secular state, and a change to that must be constitutionally confirmed.
 
"You cannot make such a declaration without going through a referendum," said National Reconciliation Party leader Hamat Bah.
 
Jammeh has been in power since his coup in 1994, and has a "deplorable human rights record and rampant corruption" which lost him Western support, said Human Rights Watch's Jeffrey Smith.
 
"As such, he is desperately attempting to foster a closer and more lucrative relationship with the Arab world," Smith told Al-Jazeera. "By couching his decision in terms of 'fighting colonialism,' we can see that he is trying to cozy up with other parts of the world that harbor anti-West sentiments."
 

AAI Gender Balance Report

2016-03 AAI Gender Balance ReportAtheist Alliance International has released a report on Gender Imbalance in the atheist community, its sources, and its possible responses and solutions.
 
Gender imbalance in the atheist / humanist community has been noted for many years, including in AAI's own Atheist Census project. AAI has determined this gender imbalance to be a problem in our community, rooted in centuries-old patriarchal systems and promoted and defended by many of the world's religions.
 
In today's modernist world with recognized human rights for women as outlined in the UN's Convention on Women's Rights, AAI believes that gender imbalance, both in our own communities as well as in the general populace, is an important issue for atheists to embrace and work to overcome as part of our responsibility to our humanity.
 
The report has been added to AAI's Position Statements webpage and can be read there.

Vatican Told to Get Tough on Money Laundering

vatican1VATICAN CITY (RNS) A European financial crimes watchdog on Tuesday (Dec. 15) called on the Vatican to prosecute those caught money laundering, stating the Holy See must act to ensure the success of its financial reforms.
 
"There is a need now for the anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing system, to deliver effective results in terms of prosecutions, convictions and confiscation," said the report by the Council of Europe's Moneyval oversight agency.
 
Although the Holy See has adopted new legislation in recent years to tackle money laundering within the city-state, there have been no indictments or prosecutions as a result of the new rules.
 
The Vatican had to agree to the vetting procedure after it joined the European Union Monetary Convention in 2009 as part of an effort to clean up its finances and shed the Holy See's reputation for financial scandals.

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Four Reasons for Decline of Religion in US

Praying handsSteven Reiss, Huffington Post (15 Dec. 2015) - Religious participation is declining among Americans, even though religion is still very popular.
 
According to the latest Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Forum, the percentage of Americans who believe in God, attend religious services and pray daily has declined significantly during the last eight years, especially among adolescents. The drop in religious participation is larger among whites, and less among blacks. One group bucking the trend is political conservatives, who show no decline.
 
Psychologist Jean Twenge and her colleagues have cited a rise in narcissism and self-centeredness among young people, but in truth there are no hard data scientifically linking narcissism to the decline in religious participation.
 
Could something else be behind this important shift?

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Icelanders flocking to the Zuist religion

 An ancient Sumeran statue dating from around 2520 BC. The Sumeran mythology is thought to be one of the world's oldest religion, on which others are very much based.A new religion, Zuism, based on the worship of the ancient Sumeran gods promises a refund for government religion taxes for everyone registering with their religious group in Iceland.

On the Zuist website in Iceland it was advertised that anyone over the age of 16 registering with the religion (and thus unregistering from the National Church of Iceland) would get a refund for these fees called parish fees. However, tax authorities have responded to questions from news organizations explaining that if Zuists go ahead to refund parish fees to their members they will have to pay income tax from these funds.
 
Zuists would like to abolish government funding to religious organisations in the form of parish fees and believe that the "state should stop gathering data on the personal religious beliefs of Icelanders."

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Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, says judge

Anglican Church logoThe Telegraph (UK): A two-year commission, chaired by the former senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss and involving leading religious leaders from all faiths, calls for public life in Britain to be systematically de-Christianised.
 
It says that the decline of churchgoing and the rise of Islam and other faiths mean a "new settlement" is needed for religion in the UK, giving more official influence to non-religious voices and those of non-Christian faiths.
 
The report provoked a furious row as it was condemned by Cabinet ministers as "seriously misguided" and the Church of England said it appeared to have been "hijacked" by humanists.
 
The report, by the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life, claims that faith schools are "socially divisive" and says that the selection of children on the basis of their beliefs should be phased out.

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