Liberia Conquers Ebola, but Faces a Crisis of Faith

 

NY Times - Now, it is officially over. The Ebola outbreak has ended in Liberia, the World Health Organization announced Saturday, an enormous milestone that seemed impossibly far off last year when dead bodies blocked roads and the sick prayed for ambulances that never came.

Deasprately, the country is trying to rebuild just about everything, from its health and education systems to its economy and international image. 

But in the dim hall of the United God Is Our Light Church, its generator turned off to shave costs, the congregation has been trying to repair something more fundamental: its spirit. 

The large circle of plastic chairs inevitably drew attention to the low attendance at Friday morning prayer, a monthly gathering intended to bring together a church torn asunder by Ebola. Three, four, sometimes half a dozen empty seats separated the attendees from one another.

Like many people here, church leaders often denied that Ebola, a disease new to West Africa, was real. At an emergency meeting last July, the Liberia Council of Churches, the country’s main group for Christians, described Ebola as divine punishment for acts of homosexuality and government corruption.

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FUNDAMENTAL LAW AND AMERICAN IGNORANCE: WHY ATHEISTS MUST CHANGE THE SYSTEM

By Mark Kolsen

 

By international standards, Americans are poorly educated.  Their ignorance extends beyond the oft-reported low math, science and social science scores achieved by high school students (See, for example). Adult Americans know relatively little about their own political system or other cultures (see, for example).   

They know even less about scientific cosmology or evolutionary biology (See, for example). In personal matters, where one might think Americans would know more, they are equally hapless.  Americans are laughingly ignorant of their own sexuality (See, for example).  

A comedy series could feature Americans’ responses to more complicated questions, such as “Which factors predict a successful relationship?” or “What is the best predictor of your child’s social-economic status”?

 

Given that only Italians--90% of whom call themselves “Catholic”-- are more ignorant than Americans, it could be persuasively argued that a religious Weltanshauung is a primary “cause” of ignorance.  If a human assumes that the universe was created by an omnipotent and omniscient god, and that god still intervenes in human daily life, then that human has donned blinders to real knowledge.   Why read, why learn, when you have the Bible, the word of god?

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Egypt without God? Atheists collect signatures to form a secular party

A Gallup Institute study in 2012 said 30 percent of Egyptians are atheists. (AFP/File)

According to Al-Watan newspaper, Egyptian atheists have launched a campaign on Facebook to collect signatures for a party that they would call the “Egyptian Secular Party," which would include secularists, atheists and liberal thinkers. It would also be committed to defend freedom of belief and atheism, and work on removing Egypt's Islamic identity from the Constitution.

Co-founder, Mahmoud Awad told Al-Watan that there are four kinds of atheists in Egypt. “There are those who believe in the existence of God but not in religion, the agnostics who only doubt the existence of God, the indifferent ones who do not care to know if there is a God or not, and those who neither believe in God nor in religion,” he explained.

Hisham Auf, the representative of the founders, said they aim to collect 5,000 signatures from 10 different governorates to submit an application to the Political Parties Affairs Committee.

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Media freedom in Europe needs action more than words

This article is part of a series on the state of media freedom across the globe, ahead of World Press Freedom Day published by Index on Censorship

By Paco Audije / 1 May, 2015

As we approach World Press Freedom Day, the right to freedom of expression will again be celebrated as an inalienable European value across the continent — by the public, the media and politicians alike. But to many, this will mean little more than engaging in a well trodden mental routine. We hardly consider the difficulties that freedom of expression faces in practice.

In the first part of 2015, more than a third of journalist killings in the word took place in two European countries; France and Ukraine. If it is true that Europe’s reactions to the Charlie Hebdo attack — the majority of them very emotional — were salubrious, they simultaneously gave rise to ambiguous situations. Many of the leaders that will on 3 May reaffirm their commitment free expression, supported the same message by taking part in the historic march in Paris on 11 January.

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Why the Future of Religion Is Bleak

Religious institutions have survived by controlling what their adherents know, argues Tufts Prof. Daniel C. Dennett, but today that is next to impossible

By DANIEL C. DENNETT - April 26, 2015 / published by WSJ

 Religion has been waning in influence for several centuries, especially in Europe and North America. There have been a few brief and local revivals, but in recent years the pace of decline has accelerated.

Today one of the largest categories of religious affiliation in the world—with more than a billion people—is no religion at all, the “Nones.” One out of six Americans is already a None; by 2050, the figure will be one out of four, according to a new Pew Research Center study. Churches are being closed by the hundreds, deconsecrated and rehabilitated as housing, offices, restaurants and the like, or just abandoned.

If this trend continues, religion largely will evaporate, at least in the West. Pockets of intense religious activity may continue, made up of people who will be more sharply differentiated from most of society in attitudes and customs, a likely source of growing tension and conflict.

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Conchita Wurst caused Balkan floods after Eurovision win, say church leaders

Conchita Wurst is responsible for the flooding in the Balkans that left over 50 people dead, according to church leaders

Conchita Wurst, winner, 2015 Eurovision contest

Conchita Wurst is responsible for flooding that left over 50 people dead earlier this month, church leaders in the Balkans have claimed.

The Austrian drag artist, whose real name is Thomas Neuwirth, seized international attention after winning Eurovision 2014 with his hit Rise Like a Phoenix.

However, several church leaders have now claimed the recent devastating flooding across the Balkans, which was the worst in a century and left over 50 people dead, was "divine punishment" for Conchita's victory.

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Islam finds a place in Germany's classrooms

0423-odeutschislamGermany is beginning to grant Muslims the sort of entitlements given to Christians and Jews, including having their religion taught in schools and universities – something that could be key for fighting radical Islam.

According to Yahoo News, a half hour away from the shimmering banks of the Main river, Timur Kumlu has just read 20-odd second-graders a chapter from the Quran, about Abraham looking for Allah, but finding him neither in the sun, the wind, nor the moon.

Who is Abraham? One boy with piercing dark eyes jumps in. “He trusted Allah!”

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The challenges facing atheists in the U.S.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say they'd be less likely to support an atheist for president, and almost half say they'd be unhappy if a family member married an atheist. Mo Rocca reports on the many consequences that those who come out as non-believers suffer in a nation founded on religious tolerance.
 

Bangladeshi Government: Prosecute Islamists who Killed Avijit Roy and Protect Freethinkers

3328ab6be8fd2ba088ec601bfdecca44We are outraged by the senseless and brutal hacking to death of well known scientist, atheist and writer Avijit Roy and the serious attack on his wife and blogger, Rafida Ahmed Banna, by Islamists.
 
Avijit had received numerous threats over the years for publishing articles critical of Islam, and promoting secular views, science and social issues on the Bengali-language blog, Mukto-mona (Free Mind), which he founded. He had travelled to Bangladesh from the US to attend a book fair where his book “The Virus of Faith” was being launched. It was whilst he was returning from the fair, that he was brutally killed.
 
This is not the first time atheists and secularists have been attacked in Bangladesh. In addition to the well known threats received by writer Taslima Nasrin, 29 year old blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed and Ahmed Rajib killed in 2013. In 2004, Humayun Azad, a secular writer and professor at Dhaka University, was also attacked and later died.
 
Whilst Islamists have continued to threaten prominent bloggers and called for the “execution of 84 atheist bloggers for insulting religion”, the Bangladeshi government has done little to defend the lives and security of freethinkers. In 2013, the government even arrested bloggers and shut websites down instead of arresting the Islamists involved.
 
We stand united in our grief for Avijit Roy with Mukto-muna but remain undefeated. We unequivocally condemn the attack on Avijit and his wife and also the many threats against atheist, secularist and freethinking bloggers and call on the Bangladeshi government to prosecute the Islamists involved, guarantee the safety of dissenters and respect free expression. Freedom of expression, including to criticise Islam and Islamism as well as to blaspheme, is a basic right.
 
We are all Avijit.
 
 
 

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