Friday, February 17, 2012

“Lynn”– God in the Rear-view Mirror - Lynn - The Agnostic Pastor

Life takes many strange turns. In my lie, If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be writing a story about my journey from faith to atheism, I’d probably called the elders of my church and held an all night prayer meeting for your soul! Yet, here I am. An active pastor, well-known, well-respected and an atheist. I didn’t start out thinking that I would lose my faith. As a matter of fact, I believed that my faith was so strong that it could withstand anything. It turns out that it could withstand most things, but not the truth. You see, I followed Christ all these years thinking he was the truth but I’ve finally realized that the faith I’d followed all those years was just a house of cards. Whoosh! A puff of the wind of reason and they all come tumblin’ down.
Read more


Tweet RELATED CONTENT The Devil, the internet, Richard...

Stephen Bayley - Telegraph blogs 54 Comments

Which, talking of dissimulation, brings me to Richard Dawkins, a fanatic disguised as a scientist.

Life Without God: An Interview with Tim...

Sam Harris - 13 Comments

Tim Prowse was a United Methodist pastor for almost 20 years and left his faith and career in 2011.

Dawkins Foundation care packages go to...

Jason Torpy - Military Association of... 14 Comments

View the Original article

Muslims in Wales pass on their faith at higher rates than other religions

"The Cardiff University study, published online today in the journal Sociology, says that the proportion of adult Muslims actively practising the faith they were brought up in as children was 77%. That compares with 29% of Christians and 65% of other religions.

The study also found that 98% of Muslim children surveyed said they had the religion their parents were brought up in, compared with 62% of Christians and 89% of other religions.

The team analysed data from the Home Office’s 2003 Citizenship Survey data, using 13,988 replies from adults and 1,278 from young people aged 11 to 15.


Home Office statistics show that 74% of people in Wales are Christians but that only 7% of those attend church.", Feb 13 2012 (Found via Islam in Europe)
Talk about "good and bad news"! The downside of such a study is that many people who identify as Christians, but don't give a toss about religion in their daily life, will suddenly feel the urge to compete with the muslims. Instead of embracing our secular future, they may turn around and cling to the past only because the Muslims do it.
On the other hand, 27% apostates within Islam is not a bad number considering how Islam is portrayed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Religious Relevance in Hiring

The fourth item on Sean Faircloth's list of policy objectives for his new atheist political strategy is, No religious discrimination in land use or employment.

In this posting, I am going to focus on the employment issue.

This policy means that a person's religious beliefs are not to be considered relevant when hiring a person for a job unless it is actually a part of the job qualifications.

An example where religion is relevant is reflected in the fact that a Catholic Church should not be required to hire a Jew as a priest, nor would the synagogue be forced to hire the Christian. There are certain positions in certain organizations that require that the person hold a particular faith.

There are also situations like those I described yesterday where religious beliefs (or non-religious secular philosophies) prevent a person from performing the duties associated with a job. Where this happens, religious beliefs are relevant and may be considered. Though, technically, religious belief is not the relevant issue here, but willingness to perform the duties of the job one is applying for. A paramedic who refuses to give blood transfusions at an accident site is disqualified, not because of his religion, but his refusal to give transfusions at an accident site. The reason does not matter. It is the refusal that matters.

However, in cases where religious beliefs are not required to do the job and the job has no duties that the employee would refuse to carry out for religious reasons, then religion is not relevant to doing the job and shall not be relevant.

At this point, I would like to remind the reader that there are limits to religious tolerance. It is simply not the case that we can disregard all religious beliefs and tolerate all religious practices. A religion that practices the sacrifice of young virgins, or that demands the death of anybody of a different religion, or that claims that the wife must die with her husband, or that we must not suffer a witch to live, are just some possible examples of religious practices that nobody has a right to exercise nor do others have an obligation to tolerate.

Similarly, we must also find certain a-theistic philosophies intolerable. An example of this would be the view that we must exterminate the religion meme by euthanizing all who appear to be infected with it. Verbal persuasion is the only legitimate way to alter a person's views on such matters.

However, among peaceful religions (an a-theistic philosophies), where religion is not an integral part of the job, there is no need to consider those beliefs when making employment decisions. In the case of hiring the church leader, religious convictions are relevant. In terms of hiring a teacher in a school that provides state-funded education to children, it does not - as long as one is willing to teach the received academic theories regarding such things as the age of the earth, biological evolution, archaeology, and history.

In light of this, consider a case in which a church that decides to build a school. There are two main routes that the church may take.

One route us that it could be a church school designed to teach the beliefs of the church - a school for training would-be priests, for example. Here, religious belief would be relevant to employment and may be considered.

Or it could be a school whose purpose is to teach general knowledge to the public at large. Religious belief is not relevant to the job of providing children with a general education in history, math, science, geography, archaeology, and the like. Therefore, religious beliefs may not be used as an employment criterion. Doing so would be discriminatory and prejudicial - and these do not serve a legitimate interest.

The issue becomes more pronounced when state money is involved. The state has no business taxing all of its citizens to create employment or career opportunities only for those who meet certain religious qualifications. The state has no business taxing everybody yet creating jobs only for Christians, or only for those who believe in a god. State money may only be legitimately spent in ways that treat all citizens equally before the law - meaning that it does not consider qualifications other than those relevant to the job in question.

Going back to our hypothetical school, the church must rely on its own resources to fund a school that teaches its beliefs and doctrines - such as training priests or teaching its own version of history or biology. If it takes state money, then its teachings shall be those of received academic opinions, not those of their specific religion. Teaching received academic opinion requires no religious test, and none should be used.

If a church wishes to handle adoptions it may do so in its own way regarding children voluntarily given to their care by private individuals responsible for that care. An unwed mother who gives her child to such an agency would meet this criterion. However, if the agency takes state money, then they must use the state standards regarding who is qualified to adopt. It may lobby the state as to what those standards should be. However, when they act as agents of the state (taking state money), then they are to use the state standards.

If a church adopts the practice of accepting food donations and offering food to the poor, they may do so in the context of trying to convert the poor to their religion and use understanding of church doctrine as a qualification for employment in the kitchen. However, if it takes state money, its mission is to feed the hungry, not to convert people. This is a job for which religious beliefs are irrelevant and may not be considered a criterion of employment.

A part of the principle of freedom of religion is that religions stand or fall on their own. The fact that the church of Athena seems to have hit some hard times recently does not justify a state bailout providing the church with subsidies in order to rebuild that religion.

If the school or orphanage or soup kitchen cannot stay open without state aid, then so be it. The church has the option to end that service. If a church service is not viable without state funds, the state should not keep it running with government subsidies. Instead, the state should buy its services from a competing agency that is willing to sell the services that serve actual and legitimate state interests.

It is scarcely recognized that the Catholic Church is passing much of the cost of lawsuits against it for child sexual abuse of priests by passing those costs on to the taxpayers. It diverts money that would have otherwise gone to its schools, orphanages, and food banks - then demands that the state fund those operations instead. This is functionally no different than giving the taxpayer the bill for these lawsuits.

The principle behind this policy is that of equal standing before the law. Where the state is in a position to provide advantages and disadvantages - to grant or to deny opportunities - it must demonstrate a legitimate state reason in determining who gets those advantages or disadvantages. There is a legitimate state reason to discriminate between competent versus incompetent engineers when paying for the construction of a bridge. There is no legitimate state reason to discriminate between white versus black engineers, or female versus male engineers.

Nor is there a legitimate state interest served in distinguishing between theist versus atheist engineers - unless a person's religion is one that teaches that pi = 3, in which case the question of religious belief overlaps the question of engineering competence. In this case, the state may discriminate. However, this is still an example of discriminating in terms of competent engineering, not a case of discrimination against a religion per se.

Make Differences



Asbestos Deaths



Deaths from Asbestos

Mesothelioma Advice

Mesothelioma Resources

Exposure to Asbestos

Auto Donation California

Car Donation Centers

Car Donation San Francisco

Vehicle Donation California

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Poll reveals majority of UK Christians support secular outlook

"Results of a poll carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) show that UK Christians are overwhelmingly secular in their attitudes on a wide range of issues.


The poll revealed that, on balance, significantly more Christians:

    agree that the law should apply equally to everyone, regardless of their religion or belief (92% v 2%)
    oppose religion having special influence on public policy (74% v 12%)
    oppose the UK having an official state religion (46% v 32%)
    oppose seats being reserved for Church of England bishops in the House of Lords (32% v 25%)
    support the costs of hospital chaplains being met by the chaplain's religious organisation rather than from NHS budgets (39% v 32%)
    want state-funded schools to teach knowledge about the world's main faiths even-handedly, rather than inculcate beliefs (57% v 15% solely Christian inculcation or 8% inculcate other school faith)
    approve of sexual relations between two adults of the same sex than do not (46% v 29%)
    approve of an adult woman's right to have an abortion within the legal time limit (62% v 20%)
    support the legalisation of assisted suicide in the case of terminally ill adult patients with safeguards (59% v 21%)"

National Secular Society, 14 Feb 2012
See lengthy press releases with lots more numbers here:
RDFRS UK/Ipsos MORI Poll #1: How religious are UK Christians?
RDFRS UK/Ipsos MORI Poll #2: UK Christians oppose special influence for religion in public policy

Here are the full results of the poll (PDF)

See also:
"The kind of conservative religious aggression that claims 'anti-Christian discrimination' every time Christians are asked to treat others fairly and equally in the public square is a threatened response to the loss of top-down religion's social power. So is overbearing 'Christian nation' rhetoric, and the 'culture wars' that some hardline believers and non-believers may seek to launch and win against each other.


"Likewise, Richard Dawkins may not be a subtle, unbiased or persuasive analyst of religion overall, but it would be entirely unhelpful for believers to dismiss this survey because they disagree with its commissioner in other respects. Its content evidently needs further and deeper analysis, alongside other data, than the initial response to it has allowed."

Ekklesia (Christian think-tank)

Daily Telegraph: Christians don't want religion to 'influence public life'

Evaluating God

"While many polls have asked what Americans’ beliefs are about God, there has been little measurement of voters’ evaluation of its performance.", July 22, 2011

Old poll, but I just found it in a recent grumpy commentary which neglected to include a source nor a date. Anyway, fairly interesting to see all the "not sure" answers. No doubt many of them were also unsure whether or not to dare say they were unsure.  Here are the results (PDF)

"Q7 If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its performance?
Approve ............. 52%
Disapprove......... 9%
Not sure ............. 40%
Q8 If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its handling of natural disasters?
Approve ............. 50%
Disapprove......... 13%
Not sure ............. 37%
Q9 If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its handling of animals?
Approve ............. 56%
Disapprove......... 11%
Not sure ............. 33%
Q10 If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its handling of creating the universe?
Approve ............. 71%
Disapprove......... 5%
Not sure ............. 24%"

Exorcisms: Taking Advantage of the Mentally Ill

Updated: Monday, 13 Feb 2012, 9:53 PM MST
Published : Monday, 13 Feb 2012, 9:53 PM MST

PHOENIX - He spent 20 years as a radio talk show host, appearing on Oprah, Larry King, and the O'Reilly Factor among others.

His name is Reverend Bob Larson and now he's moved on to his new career -- a self proclaimed exorcist for the Spiritual Freedom Church, based in Phoenix.

And believe it or not, people here in the valley are keeping him busy, exorcising what they believe to be demons inside them.

But how real is Reverend Larson’s work?

FOX 10's Kari Lake reports.

Full Article

Monday, February 13, 2012

Religious Beliefs and Professional Duties


In my discussion of Sean Faircloth's new atheist strategy, I am at the third of ten policy objectives - that pharmacists and doctors do their job and not use their religion as an excuse to do refuse legal medical help to others.

Faircloth has in mind the case of a rape victim. After enduring the rape, and reporting it to the police, and going through a rape exam, she gets a prescription for a "morning after pill." She goes to a local pharmacist - and he refuses to fill the prescription. Where this happens once, it can happen two or three times. In a more rural part of the country, once is enough.

Faircloth's policy objective is for the law to declare that these jobs come with certain duties and responsibilities, which includes filling legal prescriptions that customers may come in with.

If your religion prohibits you from doing the job, find a different job.

Imagine taking your child to the hospital with a severe bleeding wound and being told, "We do not do blood transfusions here. If you want a blood transfusion, you will have to go elsewhere." And the next nearest hospital is 60 miles away.

However, I do not think that this issue is quite as simple as some wish it to be.

Let's consider conscientious objector status. Here is a case of people who, for religious reasons, refuse to kill. Are we going to advocate putting a gun in their hand and forcing them to kill people? Or are we going to allow them to use their religion as a legitimate reason not to kill?

My next step will be to ask whether or not the pharmacist can use religion as a reason not to kill.

I hold that an fetus has to have a brain capable of having desires before it can have moral standing. You cannot violate the interests of a being that has no interests. And while the being has potential future interests, that only speaks to the possibility of potential future harm if and when those potential interests become actual interests. Therefore, I deny that abortion or the use of a morning-after pill violates any moral prescription. However, the question here is whether and to what degree I may impose those beliefs upon others.

The argument for freedom is substantially an argument against arrogance. It is an argument that says that we are going to allow each competent adult the opportunity to look around and decide his own place in the world. Each of us thinks we are right. However, we are going to require enough humility to require that we use words to convince others of the error of their ways - not guns. We will presume in favor of freedom and the power of non-violent forms of persuasion, and give up freedom only when the arguments for doing so are compelling.

When religion commands somebody to kill others, the argument for finding this freedom intolerable is compelling. When it tells somebody not to kill - as in the case of the conscientious objector - the weight of the argument remains with the presumption of freedom.

However, in the case of the conscientious objector, freedom means that we are not going to compel them to kill. We still leave it to them not to choose the profession of soldier, where killing is potentially required.

We say, Fine. If you do not wish to kill - which is one of the potential duties of a soldier - then do not enlist. Do not go through basic training, get assigned to a squad, get into a battle, and decide at that point not to pull the trigger because you have religious objections to killing. Make your decision before you sign up that this career opportunity is not for you. In addition, do not demand that you be able keep your job as the heavy weapons specialist after you have decided not to do perform the duties that this job requires - because removing you from that position violates your "freedom of religion". Your freedom of religion is exercised in the freedom to not be a soldier.

We can take the same position with respect to the pharmacist. If you object to handing out any legally prescribed drugs, stay out of the pharmacy business. Do not go into training, get yourself a job, take the Sunday shift, and then refuse to do your duty when a customer comes in with a valid prescription for a morning after pill. Make your decision before you start training. This career opportunity is not for you. Do not say that requiring you to sell a legal prescription drug violates your freedom of religion. Your freedom of religion is exercised in the freedom to not be a pharmacist.

Individuals are still given freedom of conscience. We are not going to force people into jobs that are not compatible with their religious beliefs.

We are not going to force the conscientious objector to become a soldier.

We are not going to force that devout Jew or Muslim to become a sausage taster.

We are not going to force the devout animal-rights advocate to become a rancher.

We are not going to require religious fundamentalists to become pharmacists.

We will trust them to take jobs that are compatible with their religious beliefs.

In the Spirit: Some florists won't deliver to atheist - Doug Erickson - Wisconsin State Journal

It seemed like such a simple transaction.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison wanted to send a bouquet of roses to Jessica Ahlquist, a 16-year-old atheist in Cranston, R.I., who had just won a court battle with her school district over a Christian prayer banner.

The foundation quickly learned there are some things you can't say with flowers, at least not in Cranston.

Four floral shops declined to deliver flowers to the teen, according to the foundation. The foundation now has filed complaints against two of the stores with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, alleging illegal discrimination based on religion.

"I'm totally flummoxed," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, foundation co-president. "I couldn't believe the florists would treat a teenager this way."Ahlquist was the plaintiff in a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against Cranston West High School. At issue was an 8-foot-tall banner in the school gym titled "School Prayer." It begins "Our Heavenly Father" and ends with "Amen."

A federal judge ruled in mid-January the prayer's presence violated the principle of government neutrality in religion and was therefore unconstitutional. A week later, Gaylor sought to send flowers to Ahlquist.

The first floral shop contacted in Cranston said it would be closed on the requested delivery day, which was a Wednesday, Gaylor said. A second Cranston shop, Twins Florist, sent a message saying, "I will not deliver to this person," Gaylor said.
Read more




View the Original article