A sad example of science class in the Bible belt

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When I saw the video I link to in this post, I had a mixture of sadness and anger. I was sad because the students on camera say some stupid things about evolution for their age and I was angry because the so-called science teacher refused to tell them they were wrong.

“How can I say to a student, your ideas are trash, keep them out of this room…” – Joe Wilkey “science” teacher.

Rare Look Inside Bible Belt Classroom (1996)

The video is from a BBC program in 1996.

(Tip-o-hat to Atheist Revolution for the link to the video)

Right wing wants religious freedom as long it only includes Christianity

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Recently the religious right and their propaganda arm FOX News complained about NASA reaching out to the Muslim community and Muslim’s wanting to build mosques in the US. The Daily Show had a great segment on their fauxrage.

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Jon: But fox isn’t just concerned with Muslims in space — they are also very concerned with Muslims in mosques.

growing outrage over plans to build more mosques and Islamic centers in America.
Now in rural Tennessee a plan to build a mosque has sparked vandalism and death threats.
There’s Wisconsin, Sheepshead Head Bay, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the mosque at ground zero.
There are a number of people asking why are these mosques being built in my community.

Jon: Oh, oh, I think I know buzz there are Muslims who live in their community. And I guess they can’t find the prayer carpet room in the church or synagogue. Lest this seem like religious prejudice, rest assured it is not. — About building mosques. It is about what goes on inside its mosque.

There’s some people that are afraid. And they are afraid for good reason. Because islamic philosophy and ideology starts in a mosque. Their mission is to spread Islam to be dominant in the united states.

Jon: What? One of tenets of Islam is to spread Islam. That would be like if Christians went places and built churches

Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life

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I found this the other day and thought I would pass it on. I happen to agree with the Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life 100%. I encourage you to read and consider the points.

The recent Gods and Politics conference in Copenhagen adopted the following Declaration on Religion in Public Life. The conference was the first European event of Atheist Alliance International, and was co-hosted by AAI and the Danish Atheist Society.

We, at the World Atheist Conference: “Gods and Politics”, held in Copenhagen from 18 to 20 June 2010, hereby declare as follows:

* We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.

* We submit that public policy should be informed by evidence and reason, not by dogma.

* We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular.

* We assert that the only equitable system of government in a democratic society is based on secularism: state neutrality in matters of religion or belief, favoring none and discriminating against none.

* We assert that private conduct, which respects the rights of others should not be the subject of legal sanction or government concern.

* We affirm the right of believers and non-believers alike to participate in public life and their right to equality of treatment in the democratic process.

* We affirm the right to freedom of expression for all, subject to limitations only as prescribed in international law – laws which all governments should respect and enforce. We reject all blasphemy laws and restrictions on the right to criticize religion or nonreligious life stances.

* We assert the principle of one law for all, with no special treatment for minority communities, and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes.

* We reject all discrimination in employment (other than for religious leaders) and the provision of social services on the grounds of race, religion or belief, gender, class, caste or sexual orientation.

* We reject any special consideration for religion in politics and public life, and oppose charitable, tax-free status and state grants for the promotion of any religion as inimical to the interests of non-believers and those of other faiths. We oppose state funding for faith schools.

* We support the right to secular education, and assert the need for education in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge, and in the diversity of religious beliefs. We support the spirit of free inquiry and the teaching of science free from religious interference, and are opposed to indoctrination, religious or otherwise.

Adopted by the conference, Copenhagen, 20 June 2010.

Please circulate this as widely as you can among people and groups who advocate a secular society.

Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life June 20th 2010

Australian PM Julia Gillard doesn’t believe in God

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I was shocked when I learned that new Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard doesn’t believe in God. This is why I need to live either in Europe or Australia since they aren’t hung up on their politicians and religion. What shocked me even more is she was quoted in an interview by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and it was made public. Good on her and Australia.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she has no intention of pretending to believe in God to attract religiously-inclined voters.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was a regular at Canberra church services and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is known as a devout Catholic.

In contrast, Ms Gillard says that while she greatly respects other people’s religious views, she does not believe in God.

Ms Gillard has been quizzed on personal topics including her attitude to religion and her relationship with her partner during interviews this morning.

She says does not go through religious rituals for the sake of appearance.

“I am not going to pretend a faith I don’t feel,” she said.

“I am what I am and people will judge that.

Gillard won’t play religion card

*Update* After posting this entry I heard that PM Gillard is opposed to gay marriage. Below is a quote and link to a newspaper article that confirms her view. While I am happy that she is an atheist, there isn’t a valid secular reason to oppose gay marriage. Tax implications and protecting children are red herrings and have roots in religious bigotry.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she does not support legalising gay marriage in Australia.

Labor policy on gay marriage will remain the same under her prime ministership, Ms Gillard told Austereo show today.

“We believe the marriage act is appropriate in its current form, that is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman, but we have as a government taken steps to equalise treatment for gay couples,” Ms Gillard said.
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Asked if that was also her personal view, Ms Gillard said it was.

Gillard against gay marriage

Maybe one day we will have the perfect atheist elected official.

Campus groups can’t exclude people and still get funding

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The US Supreme Court ruled today that college groups can’t discriminate in its membership if the college has a non-discrimination policy. The Christian Legal Society, which excluded gays from membership, sued a law school after it refused to give it official campus funding and recognition.

The vote was 5 to 4. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion:

“In requiring CLS – in common with all other student organizations – to choose between welcoming all students and forgoing the benefits of official recognition, we hold, Hastings did not transgress constitutional limitations,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the 5-4 majority opinion for the court’s liberals and moderate Anthony Kennedy. “CLS, it bears emphasis, seeks not parity with other organizations, but a preferential exemption from Hastings’ policy.”

Christian Group Can’t Bar Gays, Get Funding At Hastings College, Court Says

Basically the college’s rule didn’t prevent the Christian Legal Society from keeping its beliefs. The group has to allow everyone in if it wants funding and recognition just like every other campus group.

Camp Quest Ohio is underway

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I wrote about Camp Quest back in March and camp started up this past week. The Columbus Dispatch not only had a print article but also a podcast and short video about the camp. Follow the links below.

The camp director’s housekeeping lecture met the usual disinterest from the dining hall full of sweaty, bug-bitten kids.

Messy cabins are a staple of summer camp. Who wants to tidy up when you can swim, play games and goof around with your friends?

But August Brunsman finished his cleaning directive with a so-subtle-the-kids-probably-missed-it pun that made clear that Camp Quest is not the usual summer offering.

“Remember,” he said, a slight grin crossing his face, “cleanliness is next to godlessness.”

Camp Quest is a sleepaway camp for the children of atheists, agnostics, humanists and other nonbelievers, though kids from religious families are welcome, too.

Most of the time, the kids do normal camp stuff such as hike, compete in relay races, sit around campfires.

But the overarching philosophy is that life without religion is a perfectly healthy, viable option.

Kids wrestle with religion at Camp Quest

Faith & Values Podcast | No. 101 Dispatch religion reporter Meredith Heagney talks with Amanda Metskas, the director of Camp Quest, a program for children of atheists, agnostics, humanists and other nonbelievers.