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March 22, 2011

We should be so lucky!

UK:


A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team's mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says ....

Religion may become extinct in nine nationsBBC News, 22nd March 2011.

July 31, 2009

Religious group is accepting, respects diversity and generally tries to make up for all the rest.

There are a few religious groups that rarely, if ever, feature in the Prattle. Some, seem to think, conspiratorially, that Judaism never features but the responses demonstrate that that is not the case. No, the group that most notably never features here is the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers. And today's news demonstrates why: whilst other denominations are spewing out homophobic hate speech, the Quakers have been quietly thinking about it (for 20 years, apparently), and today a decision was made:

This open sharing of personal experience has moved us and added to our clear sense that, 22 years after the prospect was first raised at Meeting for Sufferings we are being led to treat same sex committed relationships in the same way as opposite sex marriages, reaffirming our central insight that marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses. The question of legal recognition by the state is secondary.

We therefore ask Meeting for Sufferings to take steps to put this leading into practice and to arrange for a draft revision of the relevant sections of Quaker faith and practice, so that same sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the state, as opposite sex marriages are. We also ask Meeting for Sufferings to engage with our governments to seek a change in the relevant laws so that same sex marriages notified in this way can be recognised as legally valid, without further process, in the same way as opposite sex marriages celebrated in our meetings. We will not at this time require our registering officers to act contrary to the law, but understand that the law does not preclude them from playing a central role in the celebration and recording of same sex marriages.

News release and background on Committed Relationships paper for YMG09Quakers In Britain, n.d., but the press release itself is 31st July 2009.

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.

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.

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.

Oops.

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).

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.

March 21, 2007

Miscelleny

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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