October 31, 2007

Government body listens to scientists shocker!

United Kingdom: A committee considering scientific evidence and making recommendations for change based on scientific evidence has issued its report. Religious groups, who had tried to nobble the enquiry, will not be pleased with the results. No change in the upper limit is suggested, and liberalisation in other areas is proposed. What's more, the committee said that superstitious doctors who object to the procedure should alert their patients well in advance. Ben Goldacre has the press release, which quotes committee member Dr Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP, extensively:

This thorough report - after a rigorous enquiry into a set of very narrow scientific issues - sets out clear conclusions on what the scientific evidence can tell us about abortion law reform.

The medical evidence is stark about how the threshold of viability has not reduced below 24 weeks, and that is why our conclusions are so firm...

The Committee had no alternative - given the medical and scientific facts - but to argue for the end of the 40 year requirement for two doctors signatures, the old-fashioned ban on nurses performing abortions, and the unnecessary restriction of choice for women about where they have early medical abortion.

I am pleased the Committee argues for the GMC to make clear that doctors who conscientiously object must alert their patients in advance and ensure another doctor takes the consultation if abortion is a possibility.

Dr. Harris also left us a tempting tidbit:

The so called minority report is a amusing mish-mash of paranoid conspiracy theories, pseudo-scientific clap-trap and anti-abortion zealotry. The few recognisably scientific arguments it makes are completely dealt with in the Committee's report and rebutted by the totality of the scientific literature.

I think we can all guess which report the Prattle would like to see.

Sense prevailsBad Science, 31st October 2007. See also SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENTS RELATING TO THE ABORTION ACT 1967, an account of the committee's remit on the UK Parliamentary website.

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August 30, 2007

Religiously Justified Paedophilia and Incest

Australia: Here's a delightful tale of religiously justified paedophilia and incest from South Australia.

A pastor from a South Australian fundamentalist church has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years after admitting he had sex with two of his teenage daughters.

The 54-year-old man, who cannot be named, pleaded guilty to seven counts each of incest and unlawful sexual intercourse.

The court heard that the man had sex with his daughters for nearly a decade in the 1990s at the family property.

The man later told the court he had sex with the girls to educate them on how to be good wives — not for his own gratification.

Judge David Lovell rejected that, saying the man's explanation for the abuse defied belief.

In setting a four-year non-parole period, Judge Lovell said the man had good prospects of rehabilitation, and continued to have the support of his wife and church.
Continue reading "Religiously Justified Paedophilia and Incest"

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July 9, 2007

Paedophile Loses Appeal

Australia: While I was distracted by the tale of a superstitious Melbourne Catholic school refusing to enrol a child with the last name Hell, I missed the news that kiddie fiddler William Little Pebble Kamm has lost his appeal against charges of paedophilia.

Amusingly enough his attempts to overturn the case were based more on trying to hide the fact that he's an idiot with a collection of stupid minions, rather than the improper behaviour of a judge.

Kamm's grounds for appeal included the jury should have been dismissed because of a note it had sent to the judge during the trial.

The jury had notified the judge Kamm's sister-in-law was seen mouthing words from the public gallery, which were then repeated by a defence witness.

Justice Hodgson today ruled the judge had acted properly by asking the jury to draw no inference from what they suspected was the coaching of a witness.


Kamm is also awaiting sentencing following a separate guilty verdict on sex charges related to a different underage girl. He does seem to have been the busy little paedophile.

Cult leader loses child sex conviction appeal—news.com.au, 9th July 2007, (via feorag.newsvine.com).
Catholic school gives in over Hell enrolment—ABC News Online, 9th July 2007, (via redwolf.newsvine.com).

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March 28, 2007

Heart transplant

United States: Joe Murray used to be a columnist for the American Family Association, but is now strongly critical of their homophobic stance. This interview with him at Pam's House Blend makes interesting reading, and serves as a reminder that not all Christians are hate-filled loons (via Box Turtle Bulletin).

Pam's House Blend mocks all sorts of homophobia, especially fundie homophobia, and has recently featured some gems, such as What is it with Michael Savage and transpeople?—in which we learn that trans people are to blame for the Columbine massacre. The blog subtitle ...always steamin' means something quite different in these parts, though.

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March 21, 2007


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December 23, 2006

British public: religion is dangerous

United Kingdom: Religion is a force for harm, not good, and non-believers make up the majority of the population according to a poll published in today's Guardian.

The poll also reveals that non-believers outnumber believers in Britain by almost two to one. It paints a picture of a sceptical nation with massive doubts about the effect religion has on society: 82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16% disagree. The findings are at odds with attempts by some religious leaders to define the country as one made up of many faith communities.

Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% of those questioned describing themselves as a religious person. A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious - including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian.

The response from the Church of England has been to stick its fingers in its ears and cry Nyaah! Nyaah! Can't hear you!.

But a spokesman for the Church of England denied yesterday that mainstream religion was the source of tension. He also insisted that the impression of secularism in this country is overrated.

He went on to claim that 1 million people (1.6% of the population) attend CofE services each week. As Charles Stross points out, this is far fewer than watch SF and fantasy on TV:

Yeah, right. You speak for an organization that has an audience draw 40% that of a Terry Pratchett mini-series on Sky TV. Doctor Who has a 4:1 lead over the C of E in regular audience terms. Maybe we should give Russell T. Davis four seats in the House of Lords?

Religion does more harm than good - pollThe Guardian, 23rd December 2006.

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August 17, 2006

Abstinence Only Sex Education Causes Baby Boom

United States: For years independent reports have shown that abstinence only sex education, so favoured by the loony fundies of America, just doesn't work. Not only does it result in lots of clueless pregnant teenagers, but also skyrocketing incidences of STDs.

As you would expect, the loony fundies on the Canton, Ohio school board poo-pooed these reports, secure in their belief that Just Saying No was the all their children needed to know about sex. As expected, it all came back to bite them.

There were 490 female students at Timken High School in 2005, and 65 were pregnant ... According to the Canton Health Department, statistics through July 2005 showed that 104 of the 586 babies born to Canton residents in Aultman Hospital and Mercy Medical Center had mothers between the ages of 11 and 19.
Continue reading "Abstinence Only Sex Education Causes Baby Boom"

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March 25, 2006

Work of literature not banned by US school board

United States: In a surprising decision, given recent events, a school board in San Antonio, Texas, has decided not to ban Margaret Atwood's 1985 classic The Handmaid's Tale. Superintendent Ed Lyman had banned the book from the advanced English curriculum, but the school board overturned the decision.

If we do ban The Handmaid's Tale because of sexual content, then why not ban Huckleberry Finn for racism? Why not ban The Crucible for witchcraft? Why not ban The Things They Carried for violence, and why not ban the Bible and argue separation of church and state? Judson senior Craig Gagne told trustees.

As well as complaining that the book was sexually explicit, Lyman insisted it was offensice to Christians. Well, I suppose if you are a barking mad fundie, I suppose it would be offensive to read a fictional reminder of what a society run according your interpretation of The Big Book of Fairy Tales would be like.

School board reverses ban on Handmaid's TaleHouseton Chronicle, 24th March 2006.

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January 11, 2006

Sound business sense.

Israel: Pat Robertson's plan to build a Biblical theme park has ground to a halt because the Israeli government refuses to do business with him. His recent comments that Ariel Sharon's stroke was a punishment from God just might be connected to the decision.

Avi Hartuv, a spokesman for Israel's tourism minister, said officials were furious about the remarks.

We will not do business with him - only with other evangelicals who don't back these comments, he said. We will do business with other evangelical leaders, friends of Israel, but not with him.

Robertson had hoped to attract a million visitors per year (and their money) to his Christian Heritage Centre in Galilee, close to several important Christian sites. There is no news as to whether Robertson has since declared Israel to be a dark land dominated by homosexuals.

Israeli biblical theme park plans in doubtThe Guardian, 11th January 2006.

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December 20, 2005

Pennsylvania Judge Boots ID Out

In a delightful example of common sense, Judge John Jones of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that intelligent design — which bills itself as a scientific theory and states that life shows signs of being the work of an intelligent designer — is in fact reworked creationism.

The decision comes after 11 parents sued the Dover High School Board of Education for requiring that biology students be read a statement that cast doubt on evolution and endorsed intelligent design. Eight of the nine school board members were voted out of office in November, but the case continued in the court.

In his decision, Jones systematically dismantled the arguments of the proponents of intelligent design. Jones said that the history of intelligent design shows that it is essentially creationism with explicit references to God and the Bible removed. As such, it is primarily a religious theory, not a scientific one, and cannot be taught in US public schools, which are prevented from promoting religion.

Jones also said that language in the school board statement that evolution is only a theory is misleading. It confuses the scientific and colloquial meanings of theory. And by singling out evolution from all other scientific theories it suggests that there is some special doubt about the truth of evolution.

The judge stated that intelligent design cannot be considered science for a number of reasons. By depending on a supernatural cause it violates the basic ground rules of science that have been in place since the 16th century.

He also found that intelligent design relies on the false dualism that if evolution can be disproven, then intelligent design is proven. In any case, he found that intelligent design's criticisms of evolution have been largely refuted.

I'm deeply amused by the wingnuts who are pimping intelligent design as a valid scientific theory, when past attacks on the theory of evolution have been over their misunderstood use of the word theory in the first place. Perhaps this whole mess could have been avoided if somebody just handed the idiots a dictionary. Oh, that's right, they aren't permitted to think or learn for themselves.

Judge rules against 'intelligent design' in classNew Scientist, 20th December 2005.

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October 30, 2005

Yet Another Australian Cult Leader up on Child Sex Charges

Australia: Kenneth Emmanuel Dyers, co-founder of the self-styled spiritual healing group Kenja, was arrested yesterday at his house in Bundeena in Sydney's south over the alleged aggravated sexual and indecent assault of two 12-year-old girls. The 83-year-old cult leader is facing 22 sex charges and claims that the accusations are part of a witch-hunt by disaffected former members who are trying to destroy him.

Unlike the recently mentioned Kamm, Dyers was granted conditional bail. I suspect this is because he is less an obvious nutjob, but more likely, because he schmoozes with the right people.

Continue reading "Yet Another Australian Cult Leader up on Child Sex Charges"

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October 23, 2005

Cult Leader Up on Fresh Charges of Kiddie Fiddling

Australia: Kamm looks to be sinking deeper into the muck. Fresh out of court on charges of shagging a gullible teenager, he was dragged back into court for getting his end away with an eleven-year-old.

Kamm, of course, denies the whole thing, claiming the kid in question has a history of crying wolf over cult members assaulting her, but with his recent court history, it's looking like the Little Pebble may well have been sharing a penchant for paedophilia around with other members of his cult.

Kamm recently appeared in Parramatta Local Court where he was charged with five counts of sexual assault and six of aggravated indecent assault.

The court was told he is alleged to have abused a girl when she was aged between 11 and 15 at his religious community near Nowra on the south coast.

'Little pebble' charged with sex abuse - ABC News Online, 21st October 2005.

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October 22, 2005

Students vote to oust Bible

Scotland: Students at Edinburgh University have voted to remove Bibles from halls of residence because the practice is discriminatory.

The bible ban has been described as disappointing by churchmen. But student leaders insist it is an important step towards making sure people of all religions feel welcome on campus. There are more than 2000 bibles at the university's Pollock Halls campus, on the edge of Holyrood Park - one in each room. They are expected to be removed after a vote by the Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA).

University officials have yet to approve the ban. However, similar calls from students in the past - including one to have prayers removed from graduation ceremonies two years ago - have been agreed without protest.

EUSA president Ruth Cameron explained:

The student association firmly believes in the importance of ensuring that all students from all faiths feel at home in their university accommodation. We simply don't want to be seen promoting one religion over another.

Students at Stirling University supported a similar move last April.

Bible to be banned from student hallsThe Scotsman, 22nd October 2005.

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Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 16:28 | View blog reactions

October 15, 2005

Cult Leader Sentenced to Five Years

Australia: Feòrag's nutjob radar is swifter than the local news services. She passed this gem onto me for local commentary.

This isn't the first time self-professed religious leader William Little Pebble Kamm has made an appearance in the Prattle, he was last mentioned for his schemes to scam Government grants. This time around it looks like someone noticed his personal cult, the Order of St Charbel, is nothing more than a front to get Kamm laid and the silly sod has been sentenced to a minimum of three-and-a-half years in jail for sexually abusing one of his teenage followers.

Continue reading "Cult Leader Sentenced to Five Years"

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September 27, 2005

Religion is bad for us all

Fresh research has demonstrated that, contrary to the claims of religious organisations and individuals, religion has a negative effect on society.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its spiritual capital. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

Gregory Paul's research has been published in Journal of Religion and Society, and draws from data collected by Gallup, the International Social Survey Programme and other sources. He compared the rates of murder, abortion and sexually-transmitted infections in several prosperous democracies.

The study concluded that the US was the world's only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from uniquely high adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested...

...[Paul said} The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator.

The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'The Times, 27th September 2005.

September 26, 2005

Kiddie-Fiddling Priest Loses Appeal

Australia: Probably the best thing about writing for the Prattle is the joy of coming up with titles worthy of the Weekly World News. If only I could wangle aliens or Elvis in there, I'd probably be seeing a lawsuit for treading on their toes.

This particular tale is about James Fletcher, a former Catholic priest in the Hunter Valley parish. He liked to get quite familiar with his altar boys. Fortunately, some of those kids has the guts to face up to the kind of scum in the upper echelon of the Catholic church, who coddled the paedophiles in their midst and bad-mouthed or paid-off their victims, and the good Father found himself sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in stir.

Continue reading "Kiddie-Fiddling Priest Loses Appeal"

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August 16, 2005

Religion increasingly irrelevant—official

United Kingdom: Research published today shows that a significant proportion of churchgoers are not believers. Further, an excuse widely used by churches to justify their interference in the lives of non-members—that many people believe without attending church—has also been shown to be a load of old bollocks.

David Voas of the University of Manchester and colleagues report that the number of people who have a real faith is now smaller than the number of people who passively belong to a religion. That undermines a cherished tenet of churches in Britain: that many people implicitly believe even if they don't explicitly belong.

And there’s worse news for anyone hoping to impose their beliefs on their children:

The study, based on a 14 years of data from 10,500 households, found that parents played a powerful role in the transmission of religious belief. But even if both parents held strong beliefs, there was only a 50-50 chance that their children would carry on believing.

In houses where only one parent had strong feelings about faith, children were much less likely to believe. On the other hand, two non-religious parents had no trouble passing on their lack of faith. In effect, attendance fell away steadily with each generation.

Although believers tend to have more children, this rate of failure means they’d need to have at least five children per couple to see even a modest increase in belief. It won’t necessarily be the same beliefs though.

Whatever the parents' beliefs, one child in 12 will join a denomination not supported by either parent.

Study refutes faith in silent majorityThe Guardian, 16th August 2005.

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July 11, 2005

Who fundies are really.

Karen Armstrong has penned an interesting opinion piece for The Guardian questioning why we insist on referring to 'Islamic terror', yet never used equivalent terms to describe the IRA and other Christian terrorist organisations. She reminds us that what the Qur'an says, and the actions of certain violent bampots, bear no resemblance to one another:

We need a phrase that is more exact than Islamic terror. These acts may be committed by people who call themselves Muslims, but they violate essential Islamic principles. The Qur'an prohibits aggressive warfare, permits war only in self-defence and insists that the true Islamic values are peace, reconciliation and forgiveness. It also states firmly that there must be no coercion in religious matters, and for centuries Islam had a much better record of religious tolerance than Christianity.

Like the Bible, the Qur'an has its share of aggressive texts, but like all the great religions, its main thrust is towards kindliness and compassion. Islamic law outlaws war against any country in which Muslims are allowed to practice their religion freely, and forbids the use of fire, the destruction of buildings and the killing of innocent civilians in a military campaign. So although Muslims, like Christians or Jews, have all too often failed to live up to their ideals, it is not because of the religion per se.

She goes on to argue that fundamentalism is nothing other than nationalism wearing religious clothing. The efforts by American Christian fundies to co-opt the Stars and Stripes would seem to support that hypothesis.

Muslim organisations have been quick to emphasise that such acts are quite firmly against their religion, and have issued a fatwa declaring that the individuals reponsible, even if they consider themselves to be Muslims, are not—basically an excommunication.

Signed by dozens of prominent Muslim bodies, mosques, Islamic scholars and community groups, the religious edict will brand the attacks as a breach of the most basic tenets of Islam, reported The Independent.

If these bombers are found to be Muslims, we will make it clear we utterly dissociate ourselves from them - even if they claim to be Muslims or are acting under the mantle of the Islamic faith. We reject that utterly, said the official spokesman of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

The label of Catholic terror was never used about the IRA - The Guardian, 11th July 2005; UK Fatwa to Call Bombers Unbelievers, If Proved Muslims - Islam Online, 10th July 2005.

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May 2, 2005

Tax Office Uses Bible to Shame Christians

Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone has a reasonably small population and an even smaller number of Christians; weighing in at around the 10% mark. So from the newspaper ads the local tax office published, I can only assume that those Christians within the country are both more affluent than their fellow countrymen and less likely to pay their taxes.

Tax officials in Sierra Leone have infuriated Christians by publishing newspaper adverts saying Jesus Christ supported the paying of taxes.

The half-page advertisements said that when Jesus was asked if he was against a law requiring the payment of taxes to the Roman emperor he replied: Pay the emperor what belongs to the emperor and pay to God what belongs to God, quoting from the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 22, verses 17-21).

It continued: All Christians should follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. This week: pay your taxes.
Continue reading "Tax Office Uses Bible to Shame Christians"
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February 17, 2005

Deaf Pagans welcome after all

England: The Children of Artemis have reconsidered their earlier decision, to the satisfaction of SignPagan. SignPagan's representative told the Prattle we are really glad that CoA have had a changed of heart on this issue and look forward to co-operating for future events.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 12:30 | View blog reactions

February 4, 2005

The Blowers' Arms

United Kingdom: The folk who brought you the Inflatable Church have turned their talents to something useful - The World's First Inflatable Pub.

The pub is 40ft long, 19ft wide and 22ft high. It can be customised for use as a fully working pub, with room for a bar and 30 customers.

The pub can be erected in 10 minutes with 2 small blowers and can be sited on any firm, level surface.

An internal aluminium frame can be used to support additional lighting, sound systems and also doubles as a safety barrier.

No news on the inflatable cool cellar with room for several casks of real ale.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 22:15 | View blog reactions

January 23, 2005

It has a puropose after all

Canada: Inmates at a Winnipeg prison have found a use for the Bible - it makes excellent rolling papers.

The provincial jails are supposed to be tobacco-free, but enterprising inmates have come up with their own smokes - a combination of leaves from tea bags and Nicorette gum that is boiled, dried and rolled in the thin pages of the New or Old Testament.

And the Gideons have promised to provide more Bibles to burn when the prisoners run out.

Holy smokes! Prisoners using Bibles to make cigarettes - AZ Central, 21st January 2005.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 14:27 | View blog reactions

January 14, 2005

Creationists Violate State Constitution

United States: US District Judge Clarence Cooper has ordered the removal of the [in]famous theory, not a fact stickers from high school biology textbooks.

...the court hereby FINDS and CONCLUDES that the Sticker adopted by the Cobb County Board of Education violates the Establishment clause of the First Amendment and Article I, Section II Paragraph VII of the Constitution of the State of Georgia.

The full ruling [PDF] is available from the United States District Court of the Northern District of Georgia.

Continue reading "Creationists Violate State Constitution"

October 2, 2004

Spain Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Spain: Spanish authorities, apparently sick of the church trying to ride rough-shod over them, have given the go-ahead for same-sex marriages.

Homosexuals throughout Spain were last night celebrating a human rights victory after the government approved legislation allowing same-sex marriage.
Continue reading "Spain Approves Same-Sex Marriage"

September 30, 2004

A long haul

India: Police have teamed up with the Orissa Rationalist Association to try and squash the belief in witchcraft which has killed 41 people this century.

Taking preventive measures too is the role of police. We are running awareness campaigns for the same. We are going to various villages. We go the village markets and our police officers spread the message through folk songs in the local language. Besides this, we have associated some NGOs with us to help us in our endeavour. We also have certain educated scientists and professors with us, said Y K Jetwa, the area's superintendent of police.
Professor Nayak, an eminent scientist working with the Kasturba Gandhi Medical College, Mangalore visited the remote corners of the tribal dominated Sundergarh district to eradicate superstitions from among the people.
I am trying to eradicate superstition from among the masses by roaming around the villages. The society is harmed by these superstitions to a great extent. Every type of loss, for example loss of honour, loss of property and loss of life, all such losses are incurred by superstitions. Therefore I want to eradicate them all, said Professor Nayak.
Slowly but steadily, his work has caught up with the tribals, who have flocked in large numbers to witness the scientific demonstrations presented by him.

Rationalists declare war on witches in Orissa - WebIndia123, 30th September 2004.

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September 16, 2004

Education minister refuses to promote superstition

Namibia: The government has refused, point blank, to allow the ritual 'cleansing' of schools believed to be affected by witchcraft.

In [a circular, sent out less than a month ago] [Basic Education Permanent Secretary, Loine Nyanyukweni Katoma] denounced alleged cases of witchcraft at some schools and expressed her Ministry's concern that teachers and pupils were often wrongly accused of the practice.
Katoma said the policy position of the Ministry was that schools were areas entrusted to impart knowledge based on sound scientific principles and the power of reason.
Ours is not a Ministry for the affairs of witchcraft and superstitions.
The Ministry therefore does not condone the unwarranted mingling of witchcraft in the educational business of our children, Katoma said.

Govt draws line on witchcraft - The Namibian, 16th September 2004.

July 3, 2004

Serial Complainant Gets Comeuppance

Australia: Mr Fricke isn't a fan of physical contact. Especially when other men are involved. So he's made something of a career for himself as a serial sexual harassment whinger.

Talk about being a devil for punishment. Sydneysider Randolph Fricke has such a phobia about physical contact with other men that he's made five official sexual harassment complaints, including an unsuccessful one against a lawyer whom he claimed molested him by placing a hand near his groin during a mediation conference on a previous harassment complaint.
Fricke wants people to behave in a way that's conducive to the Christian Judaic ethic, which is all that has ever concerned me in my entire existence.

Christian Judaic ethic this would be as opposed to the obsessive religious nutjob ethic?

Continue reading "Serial Complainant Gets Comeuppance"

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July 1, 2004

Tutu on homophobia and injustice

South Africa: Desmond Tutu, the retired Archbishop of Cape Town, has condemned anti-gay discrimination, comparing it to the apartheid system he helped overthrow. In the introduction to a new Amnesty International book, Sex, Love and Homophobia, he wrote:

We struggled against apartheid in South Africa, supported by people the world over, because black people were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about -- our very skins... It is the same with sexual orientation. It is a given. I could not have fought against the discrimination of apartheid and not also fight against the discrimination that homosexuals endure, even in our churches and faith groups.

He saved his harshest criticism for those who would blame God for their own bigotry:

All over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are persecuted. We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God -- and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy, he wrote.

We blame them for what they are. Churches say that the expression of love in a heterosexual monogamous relationship includes the physical, the touching, embracing, kissing, the genital act -- the totality of our love makes each of us grow to become increasingly godlike and compassionate. If this is so for the heterosexual, what earthly reason have we to say that it is not the case with the homosexual?

Desmond Tutu: Homophobia as unjust as apartheidGay.com News, 1st July 2004.

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June 24, 2004

Suicide blamed on Satanists

South Africa: Religious Studies graduate Chris Roper is fed up with the tendency of journalists and police officials to cry "Satan!" every time they come across a crime involving an over-sexed, pimply adolescent with a candle fetish and a bad taste in music, and would like to see some common sense. Referring to the apparent suicide of a young woman in Magaliesberg last week, he complains

This is the bit that really gets my goat (oh oh, shouldn't have admitted I've got a goat). Burnt candles and a bottle of alcohol found near a piece of ground that had been cleared to make way for a circular rock structure brought members of the police Occult Related Crimes Unit to the scene.

Give me a break! Candles to see by, booze to pluck up courage, and a pile of rocks to jump off? And suddenly Satan is wandering around in the Magaliesberg? Surely he has enough to do down at SAFA?

The very fact that we have a Crimes Unit that apparently believes in Satan makes me laugh. And even if I also believed in Satan, I'd have to say - you can't even put Winnie Mandela behind bars, but you expect to clap the cuffs on Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness? Dream on, buddy.

Then he points out the reporting of a quote which bears an uncanny resemblance to the sort of thing trotted out by those who believe in the Satanic child abuse myth:

My favourite bit of the hanging story is the quote by a local resident: I've heard rumours of satanic rituals taking place on the mountain but I have personally never seen anything and I climb that mountain myself sometimes.

Well, there you have it: the absence of evidence PROVES that satanic rituals take place there. If they weren't Satanists, they'd have nothing to hide. This is an example of dross in a news story. The quote serves the function of legitimising the rumour of Satanism, even though its literal meaning is - there is no Satanism.

Satan ate my brainNews24, 22nd June 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 20:13 | View blog reactions

June 23, 2004

Religious Groups Unite Against Fundamentalist Extremist

Ireland: It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when diverse religious groups unite to protest against loony fundamentalists. With the Shrub's history of isolating himself from reality, I doubt the silly bastard will know the dissent exists, but good luck to them regardless.

A group of leading Irish religious representatives came out in support of protests against the forthcoming visit of US President George Bush to Ireland.
Christian, Buddhist and Muslim representatives, together with the NGO Peace Alliance, have planned a number of peaceful protests for this weekend.
They are calling on Irish people to join their demonstrations taking place in Dublin and at Dromoland Castle, where the US President is staying.
Fr Frank Brady said: George Bush is portraying the American people as dishonest, deceitful and untrustworthy. I don't think that that is fair. I think we need to protest and raise our voices.

Religious urge protests against Bush visit - Ireland On-Line, 21st June 2004.

June 11, 2004

Australian Churches Want Charlatan Tested

Australia: Professional charlatan Benny Hinn is about to tour Australia to part the gullible from their money. Local church leaders want the silly bastard to submit proof of his alleged miracles.

A modern Christian crusade led by American television evangelist Benny Hinn, a self-professed miracle-worker and faith healer, will be unleashed on Brisbane later this month.

More than 30,000 believers hoping for some kind of healing of body, mind or spirit, are expected to raise the roof of the Brisbane Entertainment Centre for two shows — sandwiched between shows in Chicago and Ohio — on June 25 and 26. They are his only shows in Australia.

Apart from those watching television during the vampire hours, relatively few Australians know of Hinn although his Orlando Christian Centre ministry, founded two decades ago, earns up to $100 million a year and is said to have a weekly world TV audience of more than 50 million.

In the US disbelievers have marred his church and concert hall performances by protesting outside venues and accusing the 51-year-old Lebanese-born tele-minister of preying on the sick and elderly.

Watchdog groups have been lobbying US Congress to pass legislation making it illegal to hawk anything that cannot be proven to deliver what it promises, and authorities have also been investigating his growing wealth.
Continue reading "Australian Churches Want Charlatan Tested"

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May 26, 2004

Gratuitous free ad.

Edinburgh, Scotland: I have quite a bit of respect for the Metropolitan Community Church, and rather a lot of respect for Bishop Jack Spong, author of Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, and the former is bringing the latter to town!

The Bible and Prejudice
author, theologian, retired Bishop of the US Episcopal Church and advocate of LGBT rights
Sunday June 27th 2004, 3.00 p.m. Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge Edinburgh EH1 1EL
Entry is by ticket only. Tickets can be obtained for £3 each by writing to MCC Edinburgh at the above address. Places are limited so please apply early.
The talk will be followed by a question and answer session. Guests are invited to stay on for refreshments followed by a service of praise at 6.00p.m.

More information on the MCC Edinburgh web site.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 17:32 | View blog reactions

March 26, 2004

Oregon Bans All Marriages

United States: As far as Benton County in Oregon is concerned, if gay couples can't marry, no one can. Quite a kick in the teeth to the fundies.

In a new twist in the battle over same-sex marriage roiling the United States, a county in Oregon has banned all marriages — gay and heterosexual — until the state decides who can and who cannot wed.

The last marriage licenses were handed out in Benton County at 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday. As of Wednesday, officials in the county of 79,000 people will begin telling couples applying for licenses to go elsewhere until the gay marriage debate is settled.
Continue reading "Oregon Bans All Marriages"

March 3, 2004

Catholic Group Is Told to Pay for Birth Control

United States: The courts have thrown out the attempt by fundie employers to weasel out of including birth control in medical coverage.

The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that Catholic Charities must provide its employees in California with medical coverage for birth control, in spite of its religious objections to contraception.

The ruling has sweeping implications for religion-based nonprofit organizations and hospitals throughout the state and could influence decisions made in at least 20 other states that have similar laws requiring employers to provide contraception as part of employee health coverage, legal experts said. A similar case, brought by Catholic and Protestant organizations, is winding its way through the New York courts.

Catholic Group Is Told to Pay for Birth ControlNew York Times, 2nd March 2004.

Posted by Red Wolf in Rare Common Sense at 03:21 | View blog reactions

Here comes the science bit

United States: The American Anthropological Association has issued a statement in response to President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as a threat to civilization.

The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.
The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

Which less polite people might wish to translate as Bush is talking bollocks. Statement on Marriage and the Family from the American Anthropological Association - American Anthopological Association press release, 25th February 2004 (via Gallimaufry)

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February 26, 2004

A matter of national pride

The UK is one of the world's most atheist countries, according to research commissioned by the BBC, and a quarter of us think the world would be a more peaceful place if no-one believed in God.

The programme producers said: Overall, the results of our poll show that levels of belief and religious activity in the UK are consistently lower than in most of the other countries polled.

Only Russia and South Korea produced results similar to the UK. The highest levels of belief are found in the poorer nations of Nigeria, India and Indonesia.

Only the United States bucked the trend, being an eceonomically-developed nation with Third World attitudes. UK among most secular nationsBBC News, 25th February 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 11:40 | View blog reactions

February 23, 2004

"Scotland would be a better place without faith schools"

Six Scottish Labour MPs have called for an end to segregated schooling in Scotland. Dr. Lewis Moonie said that separate schooling of children from Catholic families was divisive and added There should be no state-funded faith schools.

Providing faith schools is not the job of the state, as religion has nothing to do with education.

Why should we pay for the Roman Catholic Church to indoctrinate our children? I apply the same logic to separate schools for other faiths.

The Kirkcaldy MP added: Are faith schools divisive? Bloody right they are divisive.

It is not the job of the state at all to do this; it is the job of the church.

Ochil MP Martin O'Neill also called for an integrated, secular education system.

Mr O'Neill said: Personally, I feel there is no place for faith schools in modern society, and I think we are getting near the time where we will have to move on.

I want a secular system of education without any nod towards the direction of religion.

We won't get that just now, because we have a minority that feel it has rights to which it is entitled.

Id far rather we address whether religion is a necessary part of the school curriculum.

Others in favour of integrated education included Ian Davidson (Glasgow Pollok), Calum MacDonald (Western Isles), Frank Doran (Aberdeen Central) and Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen North) who pointed out that Aberdeen had ended segregation 30 years ago and the city had much improved community relations as a result. Labour MPs Call for Catholic Schools to Be Scrapped Scotland on Sunday, 22nd February 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 12:50 | View blog reactions

February 20, 2004

It's all so romantic... sniff!

United States: Following San Francisco's example, a surprising local authority has started issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. Two women were first to exchange vows in Sandoval County (population: about 90,000) near Albuquerque, New Mexico. State law defines marriage as a civil contract between two people, and makes no reference to sex.

When [County Clerk Victoria] Dunlop made her decision she said she had not been approached by any same-sex couple seeking a license but after reading about the recent court decision in Massachusetts which has similar laws she became concerned that a refusal could end up in a lengthy and expensive court battle which the county would not win.

This office won't say no until shown it's not permissible, said Dunlap.

Chicago mayor Richard Daley said he would have no problem whatsoever if the county'clerk's office followed in San Francisco's footsteps, and had strong words for those who claim it would undermine marriage:

Marriage has been undermined by divorce, so don't tell me about marriage, he said. You're not going to lecture me about marriage. People should look at their own life and look in their own mirror. Marriage has been undermined for a number of years if you look at the facts and figures on it. Don't blame the gay and lesbian, transgender and transsexual community. Please don't blame them for it.

Cambodia: Much further afield, the Cambodian king has said he has absolutely no problem with same-sex couples getting married.

The king said that as a liberal democracy, Cambodia should allow marriage between man and man... or between woman and woman.

He said he had respect for homosexual and lesbians and said they were as they were because God loved a wide range of tastes.

Sihanouk, who is currently in Beijing for medical treatment, also said that transvestites should be accepted and well-treated in our national community.

Such views do not represent the mainstream opinion in Cambodia, but will hopefully prove influential with both parliament (King Norodom Sihanouk is a constitutional monarch, like Queen Elizabeth, with no executive power) and the population as a whole. New Mexico Clerk Issues Gay Marriage Licenses365gay.com, 20th February 2004; Another US state for gay marriage?Gay.com News, 20th February 2004; Cambodian king backs gay marriageBBC News, 20th February 2004.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 22:47 | View blog reactions

February 19, 2004

Mayor Gavin Newsom and Same-Sex Marriages

United States: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has shown that he has the biggest bollocks in the United States with his move to grant same-sex marriages and in doing so gives the royal salute to Christian fundies and indignant homophobic conservatives everywhere.

No matter what the final outcome, this past week will go down as one of those defining moments, a seminal point in American history. It hearkens back to the civil rights movement and to women's suffrage, though with less screaming chanting effigy-burning marches and beatings by angry cops, and more roses and warm-hearted grins and life-affirming smooches on the steps of city hall.
It was a delicious and heartwarming historic spectacle indeed, and there was simply no way for any person of any elevated consciousness or spiritual awareness — anyone with any heart whatsoever — to witness the huge line of happy, eager same-sex couples snaking around city hall and not be deeply moved, profoundly touched.
Continue reading "Mayor Gavin Newsom and Same-Sex Marriages"

February 18, 2004

Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech

Canada: A fundie teacher has had his homophobic rant denied the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by British Columbia's Supreme Court.

Chris Kempling, a teacher and guidance counsellor in a Quesnel high school said the ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court is a significant blow to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, denying Christian teachers the right to speak out on controversial issues. Kempling says he intends to appeal the ruling.
Continue reading "Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech"

February 15, 2004

Teaching Children to Question Indoctrination

England: A UK Government report by the Institute For Public Policy Research has suggested that religious education in schools should be renamed spiritual education, with children being taught more about atheism and less about the life of Jesus and the ten commandments. And in doing so, educate children to question their indoctrination into one fundie group or another.

The lessons should be widened to include non-religious belief systems, a report by the Institute For Public Policy Research says. It calls for equal weight to be given to agnosticism and humanism as is given to Christianity. Children should also be taught about cults such as the Baha'i, made famous by the government scientist Dr David Kelly, paganism and even environmentalism...
Continue reading "Teaching Children to Question Indoctrination"
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January 9, 2004

Changing Attitudes, One Soap at a Time

Israel: The Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy group created a radio soap opera — Home Is Our Home — targetted at young Palestinians and aimed at promoting nonviolent resolution to conflict.

Continue reading "Changing Attitudes, One Soap at a Time"
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December 31, 2003

Using Intelligence Instead of Arrogance

Iraq: The US has a lot to learn in the way it allows its officers to conduct business with the citizens of Iraq. The officers arrogance has done much to antagonize the people. Fortunately, there is one beacon of light, Lt Col Alan King is a man who is not only prepared to sit and listen, but does his homework beforehand.

Continue reading "Using Intelligence Instead of Arrogance"
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December 30, 2003

A Lesson in Language

Canada: Michael Neumann, a teacher of philosophy at Trent University in Canada, eloquently argues the problem of the term anti-Semitism being co-opted for political gain by both sides of the fence.

Continue reading "A Lesson in Language"

December 27, 2003

Exchanging make-up hints

United States: Former televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker Messner will headline a drag bingo benefit for an AIDS charity next month.

But Messner, whose ex-hubby, Jim Bakker, did five years in federal prison for fraud, said her AIDS work is nothing new: Everyone has a right to be who they are. I believe that, she said. I think people are just people. God does not put labels on people. People put labels on people. And it's none of my business what goes on in people's bedrooms.

BINGO FOR A CAUSE -Sun Herald (scroll down a bit), 22nd December 2003 (thanks Steve).

Church leader condemns homophobia

The moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland used his Christmas sermon to challenge homophobic attitudes among Christians.

In his sermon at St Machar's Cathedral, Prof Torrance said that in 2001-2002, there was a 200% increase in cases of syphillis among those having gay sex but that sufferers were still too afraid to seek help.

That fear in turn testifies to a persistent homophobia in society at large.

It is almost 2004 but gay young people in Scotland are four times more likely than others to report a serious suicide attempt, his sermon continued.

We all require a change of heart because the church not least has contributed to the prevailing homophobic mindset.

Perhaps he was thinking of Roman Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who used an interview with The Scotsman to attack homosexuality, saying that people who tolerated it were getting away with murder. 'Homophobic' church slatedBBC News, 25th December 2003; Cardinal attacks society's 'plummeting' moral standards The Scotsman, 22nd December 2003.

December 23, 2003

Diverse Families Exhibit Attacked by Pastor

United States: Despite the protestations and threats of fire and brimstone from Steve McCracken, local Bapitist pastor and resident foaming fundie loony, Beaverton School District will press ahead with its plan to present a family diversity photo exhibit that includes images of gay parents.

Continue reading "Diverse Families Exhibit Attacked by Pastor"

December 20, 2003

Jihadi Blues

Pakistan: Fanatically committed jihadis are supposed to awe the infidel with their headlong kamikaze ardor. But what if you've been around the block a couple of times, and you accidentallly survive somehow, and you become a bitter, disenchanted, cynical, grumpy jihadi?

Continue reading "Jihadi Blues"
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December 5, 2003

Contraceptive Equity

United States: Religious groups are battling it out in the courts over whether health insurance plans that provide prescription drug coverage must also include coverage for prescription contraceptives.

Continue reading "Contraceptive Equity"
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December 1, 2003

Wat a way to go

Thailand: A Buddhist monk has set up an AIDS temple in an attempt to both shock people out of complacency, and to fight indifference towards and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS.

The first stop on a tour of Wat Phrabaht Nampu temple is a glass-windowed room where 12 formaldehyde-preserved bodies lie exposed on wooden slats. Their dark brown, leathery skin is stretched taut over bones. Snapshots next to each body remind viewers that the remains in front of them were once healthy people, living ordinary lives. They include a sex worker infected by a customer, a woman infected by her husband and a child born with the disease. All were former patients who donated their bodies.

Misunderstandings about the ways HIV is transmiitted has led to families refusing to accept the bones of their relatives, something the temple has dealt with in an interesting manner:

Outside the museum, visitors see a row of sculptures made from the crushed bones of those who have died at the temple. Crafted by an artist whose brother has AIDS, the metre-long sculptures depict various modes of transmission, from a couple having sex to a mother with her child.

The project was a way to deal with the temple's growing collection of bones. Hundreds of boxes with names and identity numbers are still stored in a meditation hall and 7,000 cream-coloured bags are kept outside near a Buddha image. We usually send the bones home to their families, but only 10 percent keep them. They are afraid the bones have AIDS, said Kongkiat

"AIDS" temple aims to shock complacent ThaisL'Express, 1st December 2003.

Don't Tell the Pope

El Salvador: Despite of the foolish waffle of an eccentric old cross-dresser in a silly hat, some of the Catholic Church's troops on the ground are more interested in helping people than committing murder in the name of religion.

Continue reading "Don't Tell the Pope"
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November 2, 2003

Bare scuddies

Home Secretary David Blunkett is likely to scrap a controversial clause in the Sexual Offences Bill which criminalised naturism, even on naturist beaches.

The original wording of clause 67b of the Bill, which will this week have its third reading in Parliament, stipulated that a person commits an offence if he exposes his genitals and ' knows or intends that someone will see them...'.

As naturists obviously 'know' that others on designated nudist campsites and beaches can see them, the clause caused alarm. Those found guilty of causing such an offence could have faced prison for up to two years.

The clause would also have criminalised Pagans who worship skyclad outdoors. Blunkett lets naturists off hook - The Observer, 2nd November 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 13:17 | View blog reactions

October 30, 2003

Warm black pussies.

United States: The Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has dropped its ban on the adoption of black cats during October. The national American SPCA had stopped advising such a ban two years ago after they uncovered no evidence to support suggestions that black cats were under any additional danger in the run-up to Hallowe'en.

I've been checking with people in (the SPCA's) adoption and animal science departments and no, there hasn't been any instance where a witch ... did anything with these black cats, [Deborah] Sindell said.

There's really no evidence.

The executive director of Washington County Humane Society said that he had not seen a single case of adoption leading to torture during his 30 years' experience, and noted that an ill-doer would have a much better supply of animals to be cruel to: Cats are readily available, free on the street. Those are the ones I'm more concerned about.

An anthropology professor questioned the very basis of the urban legend:

Legend says that a cat caught and killed at Halloween was especially powerful for a voodooist, Stevens said, but witches were said to share their powers with cats.

People who were fearful that the black cat was carrying evil - they might be the ones that mistreat the cat, not the witches themselves, Stevens said.

Ban on black cat adoptions at Halloween droppedCapital News Service, 30th October 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Hallowe'en and Rare Common Sense at 14:32 | View blog reactions

October 16, 2003

Imaginary friend no help

United States: Extensive research into the power of prayer has concluded that it makes no difference whatsoever.

Doctors in the United States will today disclose that heart patients who were prayed for by groups of strangers recovered from surgery at the same rate as those who were not.
The three-year study, led by cardiologists from Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina, involved 750 patients in nine hospitals and 12 prayer groups around the world, from Christians in Manchester to Buddhists in Nepal...
Names selected at random by a computer were sent to the 12 prayer groups, who began praying immediately for their recovery. Neither the hospital staff nor the patients and their relatives knew who was being prayed for.

The Bishop of Durham is unamused:

He said both the Old and New Testaments said very clearly that you must not put God to the test.

Funnily enough, he doesn't appear to have commented on earlier research done by the same people, which suggested that third-party prayer was helpful. Power of prayer found wanting in hospital trial - Daily Telegraph, 15th October 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 09:53 | View blog reactions

October 7, 2003

God created evolution.

DMD Publishing Co. is the home of Glenn R. Morton, a Christian petroleum geologist who nearly lost his faith completely after years of involvement with young-earth creationism, flood geology and other religiously-inspired pseudoscence.

In order to get closer to the data and know it better, with the hope of finding a solution, I changed subdivisions of my work in 1980. I left seismic processing and went into seismic interpretation where I would have to deal with more geologic data. My horror at what I was seeing only increased. There was a major problem; the data I was seeing at work, was not agreeing with what I had been taught as a Christian. Doubts about what I was writing and teaching began to grow. Unfortunately, my fellow young earth creationists were not willing to listen to the problems. No one could give me a model which allowed me to unite into one cloth what I believed on Sunday and what I was forced to believe by the data Monday through Friday. I was living the life of a double-minded man--believing two things.
By 1986, the growing doubts about the ability of the widely accepted creationist viewpoints to explain the geologic data led to a nearly 10 year withdrawal from publication. My last young-earth paper was entitled Geologic Challenges to a Young-earth, which I presented as the first paper in the First International Conference on Creationism. It was not well received. Young-earth creationists don't like being told they are wrong. The reaction to the pictures, seismic data, the logic disgusted me. They were more interested in what I sounded like than in the data!

Rather than dealing with the problems thrown up by the data, Creationists resorted to name calling; 'like your father, Satan' (Carl R. Froede--I am proud to have this one because Jesus was once said to have been of satan also.). There's lots of interesting stuff to read here, though some of his attempts to reconcile the data with Genesis smacks of special pleading. (via Ken MacLeod).

September 23, 2003

Equinox traditions

Today is the Autumn Equinox, and a well-known American supersition has it that this is the only day of the year on which eggs can be balanced on end. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day demonstrates:

This long-standing myth loses much of its mystique after a demonstration that eggs can be made to stand on end during any day of the year. Pictured above, Dr. Phil Plait (Sonoma St. U.) acting as the Bad Astronomer balanced three raw eggs on end in late October 1998. Later, more modestly, his wife balanced five more. The little-appreciated fact that most eggshells have small bumps on them makes this seemingly impossible task achievable. Although, during an equinox, every place on Earth experiences an equal length day and night (12 hours each), this fact has no practical effect on egg stability.
Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 09:20 | View blog reactions

August 8, 2003

Decent exposure

Spatula has posted a delightful essay, Timeless Words: How to Disarm a Fundamentalist Hate Group over at morons.org, because

Once you rip away the facade of legitimacy and reveal that these organizations really are what we say they are-- rabid anti-gay hate groups-- their arguments lose their potency. Considering the motivation of the source, an objective listener armed with this information knows that anti-gay hate group reasoning is nothing more than a set of excuses for their hatred. Then their raving can be easily dismissed.

I leave it to you to find out what that information might be.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 16:47 | View blog reactions

March 28, 2003

Domestic violence in Africa

Namibia: The Combating of Domestic Violence Bill has been passed by the Namibian National Assemby despite the claims of one member that it would infringe on the rights of those men who have been made impotent by their wives' witchcraft. National Assembly Passes Anti-Violence Bill - The Namibian (via allAfrica.com), 28th March 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 21:53 | View blog reactions

March 12, 2003

Witchcraft not blamed, for a change

South Africa: The partner of an elderly woman hospitalised after a snake bite has been quick to dismiss rumours that the infestation of snakes in Ironsyde, Palm Springs and Lakeside is the result of witchcraft. Instead, he suggested the council deal with the problem once and for all. First rats now snakes invade Vaal - Vaal Weekblad, 12th March 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 15:07 | View blog reactions

February 24, 2003

Sauce for the goose...

(or, oh how I wish this had been Newfoundland!)

A Canadian provincial court has decided to treat The Bible like all other literature, and has ruled that certain parts of it are hate speech in particular contexts. Three gay men submitted a complaint about an advertisment placed in two newspapers which emphasised four Bible verses which call for homosexuals to be killed. The court agreed that this exposed the complainants to hatred, ridicule, and their dignity was affronted on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Justice J. Barclay wrote in his opinion that the human-rights panel was correct in concluding that the advertisement can objectively be seen as exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule.

When the use of the circle and slash is combined with the passages of the Bible, it exposes homosexuals to detestation, vilification and disgrace, Barclay said. In other words, the biblical passage which suggests that if a man lies with a man they must be put to death exposes homosexuals to hatred.

Bible verses regarded as hate literatureWorldNetDaily (loony fundies and alleged distorters of the truth), 18th February 2003; Parts of Bible ruled hate speech in CanadaMetafilter, 23rd February 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 03:45 | View blog reactions

February 18, 2003

Bugs Bunny in Satanic abuse horror!

In a presentation to the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, psychologist Elizabeth Loftus revealed her recipe to get people to remember things that aren't true. She explained how a third of people 'remembered' being hugged by Bugs Bunny at Disneyland (Bugs Bunny is not a Disney character) after the false memory was implanted.

A key to inducing memories, researchers said, is to add elements of touch, taste, sound and smell to the story.

In the Bugs Bunny research, Loftus talked with subjects about their childhood memories and asked not only whether they saw someone dressed up as the character, but also whether they hugged his furry body and stroked his velvety ears.

In subsequent interviews, 36 percent of the subjects recalled the cartoon rabbit.

Suggestion recipe makes false memories realCape Argus (via IOL), 17th February 2003.

Tags: , , ,

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 19:57 | View blog reactions

February 12, 2003

It's all in the mind

Out-of-body experiences, alien abductions and similar phenomena might just be products of the brain. Ontario-based neuroscientist Michael Persinger has managed to produce these effects by subjecting the temporal lobes to magnetic fields.

Similarly, the September 19, 2002, issue of Nature reported that neuroscientist Olaf Blanke of Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland and his colleagues were able to bring about out-of-body experiences through electrical stimulation of the right angular gyrus in the temporal lobe of a 43-year-old woman suffering from severe epileptic seizures. With initial mild stimulation, she felt she was sinking into the bed or falling from a height. With more intense stimulation, she said she could see myself lying in bed, from above, but I only see my legs and lower trunk. Another trial induced an instantaneous feeling of 'lightness' and 'floating' about two meters above the bed, close to the ceiling.

Demon-Haunted Brain - Scientific American, March 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 14:38 | View blog reactions

January 16, 2003

Baring Witness

A group of Californian women, aged between 22 and 83, plan a series of protests in which they will spell out peace slogans using their naked bodies. Organiser Donna Sheehan said that the attention-grabbing demonstration came from frustration that pacifist opinions are being ignored in the general clamour for war. Women in the buff bash Bush's naked hostility - IOL, 15th January 2003.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 19:42 | View blog reactions

January 10, 2003

Muslim foils synagogue attack

A Muslim employee at a New York petrol station is being hailed as a hero after he stopped an arson attack on the synagogue opposite his workplace.

Syed Ali, 35, was working at the Amoco station on Ocean Ave. in Sheepshead Bay at about 4 a.m. when he sold $2 worth of fuel to the alleged would-be arsonist.
The Pakistani immigrant said he watched in disbelief as Sead Jakup, 22, took the canister across the street and began dousing the Young Israel of Kings Bay synagogue.
Ali quickly called 911, and cops arrived before Jakup, a Bosnian Muslim, could set the temple ablaze.

The incident is being investiagated as a hate crime, though relatives of the would-be arsonist say that he is mentally disturbed: It's not about religion , he just flipped.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 09:50 | View blog reactions

January 7, 2003

One I missed

There was an interesting leader in the Guardian on Christmas Eve. It seems that some Anglicans are a little upset that the new Archbishop of Canterbury might be a teensy, weensy bit left wing, including Ruth Lea, head of policy for the Institute of Directors, who moaned: I get the impression he wants to be a politician, and a lot of his politics will be anathema to many people in the Church of England. I see a lot of this as a political tract of a leftwing cleric, which I don't think shows an in-depth analysis. The leader writer responded:

Dr Williams's condition may well be incurable. The trouble appears to be that he has spent so much of his life with his nose buried in subversive literature. Among his favourite reading, it is said, are books which assert the following deeply undesirable principles: that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven; and that money is the root of all evil. There is even a much-lauded central character who overturns the tables of the money-changers in the Temple, not a practice to earn approval in Pall Mall. Such teachings consistently fail to underline the essential truth - that what some petty, envious people take to be greed is really incentivisation.

For richer, for poorer - The Guardian, 24th December 2002 (via The Sideshow).

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 10:57 | View blog reactions

December 9, 2002

Jesus loves you but no-one else does.

An American Family Association survey has shown that evangelical Christians are among the least liked people in the United States, rated below lawyers and just above prostitutes (presumably unpopular because of their frequent liaisons with televangelists)

Particularly galling to the AFA constituency was the country's more open embrace of gay men and lesbians. Gay people, a group conservatives frequently slander and oppose politically, ranked significantly higher in the survey than evangelicals.

The survey showed that the more well-educated an individual was, the less likely they were to have a high opinion of evangelicals. Fundamentalists Losing Favor with Public - The Data Lounge (via Wren's Nest News), 6th December 2002.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 14:35 | View blog reactions

Editorial criticises faith.

In today's Guardian, former Anglican vicar David Bryant asks whether faith is all it's cracked up to be, and discovers the answer to be 'no'.

Hiding behind the comfort of belief are destructive forces. Any faith-journey leads into a bottleneck, a religio-intellectual system with its own rules, assertions and strictures. And that is bad news. It presages mental stagnation. Why bother to query the semantic and theological niceties of Christ's divinity if it has all been done for you in the creed? What need is there to hack out a workable 21st-century morality when the prohibitions of the Ten Commandments are written down in black and white?

He goes on to criticize religious divisiveness and bigotry, and praises agnosticism. Voyage into the unknown - The Guardian, 9th December 2002.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 14:31 | View blog reactions

December 3, 2002

Some of you won't like this...

Fresh on the blogroll is The Raving Atheist--An Atheistic Examination of the Culture of Belief: How Religious Devotion Trivializes American Law and Politics. Here's a sample of their coverage of a news story in which an archbishop claimed a ski resort had not been wiped out by a volcano because he had asked God not to change the laws of physics and geology:

Encouraged by the success of his non-intercessory prayer, Gristina has vowed to save the world next year from a collision with the asteroid Ceretus. Ceterus, a pebble-sized body orbiting between the planets Neptune and Pluto, is expected to continue on its harmless course for the next eight billion years before gradually drifting out of the solar system. However, Gristina will pray that Ceterus not inexplicably morph into a clone of Jupiter and hurtle towards the Sun, sucking the Earth into its gaseous red spot before exploding upon impact with Venus.

They treat all religions equally, so over-sensitve Wiccans are advised to stay away.

Posted by Feòrag in Rare Common Sense at 14:53 | View blog reactions

December 1, 2002

Hot wheels.

Now here's something we could use: a condom motorcycle! The designer is using it to travel around parts of India raising awareness of HIV/AIDS and safer sex. World Photos - Yahoo! News, 28th November 2002.
Posted by bimbo in Rare Common Sense at 13:10 | View blog reactions

Someone gets it though.

A Texas bishop has called on people to pray for, and accept unconditionally, people affected by HIV/AIDS. Bishop Michael Pfeifer said:

We must keep them present in our consciousness, as individuals, and as a community, and embrace them with unconditional love. World AIDS day is a reminder of the sacredness of life of all people affected by the HIV/AIDS. People suffering with this affliction are not unfamiliar people, the objects of our mingled pity and aversion.

Bishop calls for 'love' for AIDS patients - Midland Reporter Telegram, 1st December 2002.

Posted by bimbo in Rare Common Sense at 11:07 | View blog reactions

November 13, 2002

Polluting the Goddess

The River Goddess should be honoured with floats made of natural, biodegradable materials and not styrofoam according to Plodprasop Suraswadi, Thailand's permanent secretary of natural resources and environment.

Mr Plodprasop said natural materials would decompose naturally and could be collected and used to make organic fertiliser.
Styrofoam would stay in the environment for 100-500 years. Burning it gave off toxic emission like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, dioxin and carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
City hall estimated that before 1980, about 80% of floats were made of styrofoam. Banana-leaf floats then returned to favour thanks to a campaign by environmental group Magic Eye, until only an estimated 1.4% of krathong were made of foam.

Loy Krathong is an annual full moon festival which has been celebrated for over 700 years. It falls on November 19th this year. Plodprasop against use of foam floats - Bangkok Post, November 13th 2002.

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November 8, 2002

You might run out of loo roll.

The Bible is the least useful item found in hotel rooms. Shower caps, sweets on the pillow and trouser presses were considered more useful in a survey conducted for Expedia. Bedside bible suffers survey blow - Ananova, November 8th 2002.

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November 6, 2002

SSPCA apologises to Pagans

I was away and missed this, but it's important. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has apologised unreservedly for linking the recent attacks on horses to Paganism.

However, SSPCA spokeswoman Doreen Graham told BBC Scotland that she had made a faux pas by describing this as a pagan calendar. That was an error on my part and I would like them to accept my unreserved apology, she said.

Pagans help hunt horse attackers - BBC News, November 2nd 2002.

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October 11, 2002

Extremists not typical

American church leaders have criticised the Christian Right for ignoring their bonds with the Christians of the Holy Land with their uncritical support of the Israeli government and defamatory comments about Islam.

Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society, declared, President Bush often reminds the American people that intolerant words of a few militant Islamic leaders are not representative of Islam. I am here to tell the American people that the comments of Rev. Falwell and others on last Sunday's '60 Minutes' are not representative of American Christianity.

Christian Leaders Challenge Religious Right's Ignorance of Palestinian Christians - US Newswire, October 11th 2002.

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September 25, 2002

Counteracting superstition

Pregnant women in Malawi are now more willing to go for voluntary HIV counselling and testing. Previously, there have been problems because HIV/AIDS, and most other diseases, have been associated with witchcraft:

People in the villages have the misconception that most of these sicknesses are caused by witchcraft which is not the case. If only they could go for testing, they could live longer other than waste money on witchdoctors.

Thyolo women opt for voluntary HIV tests - The Nation, Spetember 25th 2002. (This link is incredibly slow)

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September 18, 2002

Fundies ignored

A small group of extremist Christians were disappointed one Monday this August when school officials in Cromwell, Connecticut, decided to do precisely nothing about their petition calling for a ban on any reference to witches and witchcraft in the school system.

The petition specifies two books, "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," by Elizabeth Speare, and "The Bridge to Terabitha," by Katherine Paterson, that the group feels glorify the practice of witchcraft.
The petition also calls for the ban of things such as a worksheet on the spells and practices used by people accused of being witches in the Salem witch trials, as well as the annual field trip to Witch's Dungeon and Museum in Salem, Mass. It also calls for a ban on more abstract references to witchcraft, such as the title "Cast a Spell," used to introduce spelling techniques in grades one through eight, as well as the practice of some members of the faculty dressing up as witches for Halloween.

They argued that this was all specifically related to Wicca and promoting a particular religion violated the separation of church and state. Book ban petition heard - The Middletown Press, August 27th 2002, (Thanks Jan - the newspaper coverage is in-depth and interesting, and the comments suggest that at least one part of the US isn't infested with blethering fundies!)

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August 20, 2002

Should've gone to Confession instead

In Zimbabwe, two men approached a traditional healer for protection from the vengeful ghost of a British university lecturer they had murdered a few days earlier. The healer reported them to the police instead. The men were charged after clothing, a mobile phone, a wrist watch and money belonging to the lecturer were found in their posession. 'Victim's ghost drives murderers to confess' - IOL, August 18th 2002.

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July 4, 2002

Jesus was not God

James Kirkup's banned poem The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name will be published in leaflet form and read out in London on Thursday 11th July. The date is the 25th anniversary of Gay News' conviction for blasphemy for publishing the poem. Several people, including gay rights activist Peter Tatchell and author Iain Banks, have put their names to the publication with the challenge arrest us or abolish the blasphemy law. Peter Tatchell said:

The blasphemy law gives the Christian religion privileged protection against criticism and dissent. No other institution enjoys such sweeping powers to suppress the expression of opinions and ideas.

The protest will take place at 11am on the steps of St Martins-in-the-Field Church, Trafalgar Square. St Martin's was chosen because it has been traditionally associated with dissent, protest and free speech. Blasphemy Law Defied - Bid for Abolition, Press release from Peter Tatchell, July 3rd 2002.
British Humanist Association.
National Secular Society.
Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.
Rationalist Press Association.

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June 29, 2002

Rushdie comdemns fanatics

Salman Rushdie has spoken out against terrorism, with particular reference to Islamic extremists, but has also noted that the US hasn't done much to convince them that they are less evil than fanatics. Rushdie said that he has been listening out for something else: the emergence of a genuine Muslim polemic against the harm terrorists are doing to their 'own people' and that the war against terror will only be won

when Muslims around the world begin to believe that fanaticism is a greater evil than that which they believe the US to embody--an evil, moreover, more dangerous to Muslims, more socially, economically and politically destructive, and possessed by the nightmare vision of the Talibanization of the planet

Fanaticism is evil: Rushdie - The Times of India, June 28th 2002.

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June 18, 2002


Scientific American magazine, sick of opponents of evolution (who) want to make a place for creationism by tearing down real science has published 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense to demonstrate how creationist arguments don't hold up.

Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as "intelligent design" to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a "wedge" for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.
Besieged teachers and others may increasingly find themselves on the spot to defend evolution and refute creationism. The arguments that creationists use are typically specious and based on misunderstandings of (or outright lies about) evolution, but the number and diversity of the objections can put even well-informed people at a disadvantage.
To help with answering them, the following list rebuts some of the most common "scientific" arguments raised against evolution. It also directs readers to further sources for information and explains why creation science has no place in the classroom.

The article clears up many misconceptions about science in general and starts with a explanation of the term "theory". Apparently National Geographic Channel has made a TV programme based on the article too.

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June 17, 2002

What flood?

A recently published scientific paper demonstrates that the so-called "Noah's Flood Hypothesis" does not hold water. In 1996, marine geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman presented evidence of a bursting flood about 7,500 years ago in what is now the Black Sea.

According to the Noah's Flood Hypothesis, the Black Sea was a freshwater lake separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a narrow strip of land now broken by the Bosporus Strait. Ryan and Pittman argue that the Mediterranean broke through the land and inundated the Black Sea with more than 200 times the force of Niagara Falls. The salty powerful flood swiftly killed the freshwater mollusks in the Black Sea. This, they say, accounts for fossil remains that can be dated back 7,500 years.

This research has been used by some to support the Biblical tale of Noah and his flood.

Jun Abrajano, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, is part of an international group which has studied sediments from the Marmara Sea, which sits next to the Black Sea and opens into the Mediterranean. A rich mud called sapropel provided evidence of a sustained interaction between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea for at least 10,000 years. Abrajano said:

For the Noah's Ark Hypothesis to be correct, one has to speculate that there was no flowing of water between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea before the speculated great deluge. We have found this to be incorrect.

Noah's Flood Hypothesis May Not Hold Water - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute press release, June 14th 2002.

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April 7, 2002

Even bishops oppose faith schools.

A group including six bishops and a number of well-known scientists has written to the Prime Minister to express concern over his plans for "faith schools" and the teaching of creationism in British schools. The letter, drafted by Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries and signed by Richard Dawkins, Sir David Attenborough and others, states:

Evolution is not, as spokesmen for the college maintain, a faith position in the same category as the biblical account of creation which has a different function and purpose. It is a scientific theory of great explanatory power, able to account for a wide range of phenomena in a number of disciplines. The issue goes wider than what is currently being taught in one college. There is a growing anxiety about what will be taught and how it will be taught in the new generation of proposed faith schools. We believe that the curricula in such schools, as well as that of Emmanuel City Technical College, need to be strictly monitored in order that the respective disciplines of science and religious studies are properly respected.

Bishop warns Blair over danger of creationism - The Observer, April 7th 2002.

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April 3, 2002

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Miami police have no plans to charge a man who shot and injured a preacher. The preacher first entered the house of a woman, ranted and raved about God, then took off his clothes. He then ran over the road to another residence, where the owner shot him. Naked Preacher Shot, Police Say - MyCFnow.com, suspiciously posted on the the morning of April 1st, 2002.

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March 26, 2002

St. Anton's CoS Primary School

The general secreatary of a teaching union has voiced his concerns about the government's support for religious schools. Peter Smith of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers fears the government will find itself obliged to fund schools run by some extremely dubious organisations:

Suppose, for example, there was an application to open the Osama bin Laden academy: who exactly would say 'No, you can't'? On what justification?

As he invited the (Christian dominated) government to produce a list of 'approved' religions, he told the union's annual conference in Cardiff just how difficult that task would be:

Favouring, for largely historic reasons, some faiths at the expense of others can no longer be justified. However, it will be acutely difficult to distinguish between mainstream religions and cults or fundamentalist sects, many of which are backed by substantial private funds.

Teachers worried by faith schools - Guardian Unlimited, March 26th 2002.

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January 17, 2002

I'd like to talk to you about this issue of 'Hello'.

Fed up with being regularly disturbed by Jehovah's Witnesses, a Sussex woman called on her local Kingdom Hall in the middle of a service and started offering the congregation free magazines. Jane White said I've been having regular visits from them in the 12 years I've lived in Peacehaven. It is not the religion I object to, it is just the intrusion into my privacy which I find annoying. Neighbour returned Witnesses' cold call, The Times, 17th January 2002.

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December 30, 2001

From today's Observer

Children must choose their own beliefs. In an open letter to Estelle Morris, Richard Dawkins calls on the Government to think again about funding yet more divisive faith schools The well-argued letter can be summed up with this paragraph - This is a Catholic baby. That is a protestant baby. This is a Hindu baby. That is a Muslim baby. This baby thinks there are many gods. That baby is adamant that there is only one. But it is preposterous that we do this to children. They are too young to know what they think.

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