Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Beyond Belief. Do you believe in Angels? 46% believe in a Guardian angel!

source: (listen until 4th January) via

Chris French says "Agents behind something are an evolutionary explanation." Why do people believe in fairies or alien abductions? Some are phantasy prone personalities. Is belief in angels a substitute for reason? Some believe in angels but not in God. New age ideas - pick and mix.

5 atheist professional philosophers to every one theist pro philosopher

source: via

Stephen says "David Bourget and David Chalmers have released the results of the largest survey of professional philosophers ever conducted. Some interesting results:

72.8% atheism
14.6% theism
12.5% other

49.8% naturalism
25.8% non-naturalism (but not necessarily supernaturalism)
24.2% other

Of course, quite what any of this shows re the truth of any of these beliefs, if anything, can be debated...."

The PhilPapers Survey was a survey of professional philosophers and others on their philosophical views, carried out in November 2009. The Survey was taken by 3226 respondents, including 1803 philosophy faculty members and/or PhDs and 829 philosophy graduate students.

NB. Amongst Professional Philosophers

back to whole sample

in fine mode

back to course mode highlights comments


Monday, December 28, 2009

Are all valid ideas derived from Rationalism? A palette of reason.

source: Zoonomian highlights comments: Tim Jones draws insights from a talk by Stephen Fry and expands on the meaning of Rationalism and its many synonyms. Read full article. Just as some concepts are grounded in the 'Scientific Method' so can other (equally valid?) ideas be derive from Rationalism and Empiricism.
Yet at an emotional level, attacks on rationality can grate, especially with scientists and technologists.  I bristled when Fry likened over-zealous support for rationalism to belief in religion.  Was this the same Stephen Fry whose debate trounced the Catholic Church, and who regularly shares platforms with the likes of Richard Dawkins? But rather than rejecting rationalism, I believe he made a valid point: that it is too easy to assume a rationalist approach in all situations – however complex – when sometimes the abstract premises from which we deduce knowledge for decision making are just not up to it.

A palette of reason
Moving on, but with an eye to Fry’s sentiments, there seem to be an awful lot of reasonable sounding words out there: like ‘rational’, ‘empirical’, ‘evidence-based’, ‘logical’; and indeed –  ’reasonable’.  Whether in the context of drugs policy, climate change, faith schools, or whatever;  these words sit like so many pigments on a palette of reason, wielded by individuals and governments alike, to convince us – and themselves – that a particular course of action carries some special sanction.  But why do the same words frequently lead to misunderstandings and angst?

It seems to be down to definition and interpretation.  Boiling our list down to rationalism and empiricism (subsuming ‘evidence-based’ into empiricism and  logic into rationalism) the dictionary definitions and learned philosophical commentaries leave plenty of scope for confusion.
The  Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines rationalism as:
the practice or principle of basing opinions and actions on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response’and empiricism as

the theory that all knowledge is derived from experience and observation
which seems pretty clear. But  the Oxford Pocket English Dictionary muddies the rational water by including philosophical and theological interpretations that flex the definition of rationalism to a form no scientist could agree with.  It seems scientific rationalism is just one brand.  I’ve really no idea what to make of the theological interpretation given as:
the practice of treating reason as the ultimate authority in religion’.
but it put me in mind of this quote from the current Pope, relayed in this interview by the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno, and equally confusing to my concept of rationality:
religion needs science to keep itself away from superstition


 And when A.N.Wilson goes on to invoke the R-word:
‘Those who dare question scientists are demonised for their irrationality. Global warming may or may not be a certainty, but anyone who queries it has his sanity questioned. Cast doubt on these gods of certainty and you are accused of wanting to suppress free expression -…’
Are scientists certain about climate science? I don't think so. So anyone who questions it should surely not be demonised! For example IPCC Synthesis report pg 17 states "Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations." On pg 5 the IPCC define 'very likely' and other terms viz. 
Where uncertainty in specific outcomes is assessed using expert judgment and statistical analysis of a body of evidence (e.g. observations or model results), then the following likelihood ranges are used to express the assessed probability of occurrence: virtually certain >99%; extremely likely >95%; very likely >90%; likely >66%; more likely than not > 50%; about as likely as not 33% to 66%; unlikely <33%; very unlikely <10%; extremely unlikely <5%; exceptionally unlikely <1%.
he’s right;  anyone who doesn’t comply with the scientific definition of rationality is demonised.  Personally I’d like the scientific definition to be universally accepted, but while there are powerful constituencies who benefit from and delight in wooliness defended as realism or flexibility  (politicians, theologians, dictionary compilers), I can’t see it happening.

 Likewise, the only kind of rationality under which a discussion on the virtues of faith schools makes sense is one that allows ethical and metaphysical propositions (e.g. is there a god).  Moreover, we’re left with politicians working up a drugs policy using an ethics-based ‘political rationality’, and an education policy that recognises and values a ‘religious rationality’.
Unfortunately, the transparency being called for concerning when and under what circumstances this flexing of scientific rationalism happens, also threatens politicians with the anathema of exposing less visible agendas traditionally played close to the chest.

The Godless States of America

source: > >

The Godless States of America

by Catherine Rampell - Economix

Thanks to belacaleb for the link.

‘Tis the season to judge your neighbors for their impiety, and this year the Pew Research Center is helping with this time-honored tradition.

The polling organization recently released rankings on the religiosity of the states, based on 2007 survey responses to four questions: the importance of religion in people’s lives, frequency of attendance at worship services, frequency of prayer and absolute certainty of belief in God.

Based on those responses, Mississippi has the most religious population. The states whose populations report the least religious behavior are New Hampshire, Vermont, Alaska and Maine.

Mississippi was the top-ranked state in all four polling categories, and several other Southern states also ranked very high on the measures.
Continue reading to Pew Research link 

The Atheist's Guide to Christmas

ZOMGitsCriss YouTube

Richard Dawkins on Start The Week - BBC Radio 4, 9.30pm 28th December


Start The Week - BBC Radio 4

by Andrew Marr - Start The Week

9AM Monday GMT = 1AM Monday, Los Angeles = 8PM Monday, Melbourne

Andrew Marr looks at the ideas and issues that have dominated the world of science in the past year, and those that will be vitally important in the year ahead.

Sir Roy Anderson looks at the developments and mutations of swine flu and how the world deals with global pandemics. As a former government advisor, he also explores that thorny issue of when politics and science collide. Richard Dawkins reflects on a year dominated by Darwin, Professor John Shepherd on the blue-sky thinking to combat climate change with a report on geoengineering, and Barbara Sahakian considers whether taking pills to make us clever, well-behaved and sociable will become the norm in the years ahead.

Non-UK residents can listen to the show live, or for the next 7 days, if you have BBC iPlayer capability. See...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Church of England recruiting drive targets two-year-olds

Children as young as two are to be targeted as part of a new campaign to recruit young people back to the church, the Guardian has learned.

The Church of England is planning its first concerted drive to engage under- 18s after admitting that it is comprehensively failing to connect with children and teenagers, reports The Guardian.

Proposals will be put before the general synod in February that include a blueprint to set up breakfast, homework and sports clubs in schools as well as working in publicly funded toddler playgroups to spread the Christian word.
I've added my own comments under 'crabsallover' signature saying that it is both immoral and should be illegal under the European Convention on Human rights to teach religion, belief or non-religious belief to children, without parents explicit written permission:

Crabsallover wrote, 25 December 2009:
Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights states:-
""Freedom of thought, conscience and religion 
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience 
and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion 
or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with 
others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in 
worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2. Freedom to manifest one?s religion or beliefs shall be
subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are
necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety,
for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection
of the rights and freedoms of others."
As Jim Murdoch said in the Council of Europe online pdf booklet "Freedom of thought, conscience and religion - A guide to the implementation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights" - Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 requires:-
"that parents? philosophical and religious beliefs are accorded respect in the provision of education to their children. "
Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, says:-
"to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions."
Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the context of the right to education provides that:-
"No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions and thus a parent may prevent the ?indoctrination? of his child in school."
I agree with Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society who said, in the above article:-
"Parents should not be forced to have their children endure religious proselytising as a captive audience as the price of receiving public service."
In my opinion the phrase in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights " Freedom to manifest one?s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations ... for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others" refers most importantly to the rights and freedoms of children. Without parents explicit written permission, nobody should be allowed to teach, preach or proselytize their religion or beliefs (including non-religious beliefs) to any child, whatever their age.
To coincide with United Nations Universal Children's Day on 20 November, the British Humanist Association "Atheist Billboard Campaign" depicts young children with the quote "Please don't label me, let me grow up and decide for myself".
Parents should be allowed to teach their children about their religion or belief or non-religious belief (and give others their explicit written permission to do so).
But don't label children implying that they have beliefs such as 'Catholic', 'Protestant', 'Muslim', 'Hindu' or 'Sikh'. You wouldn't label young children as 'Marxist', 'Anarchist', 'Socialist', 'Libertarian' or 'Humanist' now would you?
I think it immoral and should be illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights, for the authors of the Church of England 'Going for Growth' document, to target children as young as two as part of a campaign to recruit young people back to the church - without parents explicit written permission.
I think it immoral and should be illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights to organise breakfast, homework and sports clubs in schools as well as working in publicly funded toddler playgroups to spread the Christian word - without parents explicit written permission.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

HASSNERS Humanist links at Liverpool Humanists

source: -  Liverpool Humanist Group

Many thanks Liverpool Humanist Group for linking to HASSNERS!

What is the probability that the idea of God or gods are just the product of the human imagination?

In November 2009 I polled "What is the probability that the idea of God or gods are just the product of the human imagination?" Results above.

It seems that most people who voted are split evenly between being absolutely certain (100%) and almost completely certain (99.9%) that God or gods are just the product of the human imagination.

In Richard Dawkins' book 'The God Delusion' he considers 'The God Hypothesis' and places human judgements about the existence of God on a spectrum of probabilities from 1. Strong Theist. 100% probability of God - to - 7. Strong Atheist via 6. De facto Atheist - very low probability but short of zero. etc.

Using Dawkins terminology, most HASSNERS who voted in this poll are either Strong Atheists (100% in poll) or De facto Atheist (99.9% in poll).

Compare the above poll results to the HASSNERS 0909 Definitions: Atheist - de facto atheist antitheists who affirm, in all probability, that gods do not exist.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

HASSNERS & Humanists4Science welcomes new legislation making teaching of evolution compulsory in primary schools

HASSNERS & Humanists4Science welcomes new legislation, on primary curriculum reform in England, which introduces compulsory teaching of evolution to ages 5-11 year old children.

Chris Street (Dorset Humanists Education Officer) reports that following his Humanist4Science July 2009 proposals to the Government, legislation was introduced today (11 November 2009), to make evolution compulsory and explicitly taught to children aged 5-11 years in Primary Schools.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) (19 November 2009) press release states that Evolution will be compulsory in the Primary curriculum from September 2011.

However the Humanists4Science proposal for compulsory teaching of  'The Scientific Method' in Primary Schools, was not taken up.

In July 2009 Chris Street authored the Humanists4Science submission to the Primary Curriculum reform consultation by Jim Rose.

Chris Street of the Humanists4Science group said "this is brilliant news because now children will learn about evolution as early as five years rather than when they are fourteen. I met Desmond Swayne MP on 10 July to discuss teaching evolution in Primary Schools  and he who wrote to Diana Johnson MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary for State for Schools at the DCSF). I think Humanists4Science have had a direct input into successfully changing National Primary School curriculum legislation."

Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs, said, ‘It is fantastic to hear final confirmation that, for the first time, evolution will now be included in the national primary curriculum. Evolution is arguably the most important concept underlying the life sciences. That it had not originally been included in the revised primary curriculum was of great concern and we are pleased to see that has now been rectified.’, 19 November 2009, Major reform to curriculum at the heart of a renewed push to drive up standards.
sourceHumanists4Science submission to the Jim Rose Primary Curriculum reform consultation.

Department for Children Schools and Families Press Release

The Department for Children Schools and Families 19 November 2009 Press Release stated that from September 2011 in Primary Schools:-
"Evolution made compulsory and importance of British history confirmed in new areas of learning"

"Schools Minister Vernon Coaker has today confirmed plans to bring in a new curriculum to shake-up primary education – with overwhelming support from pupils, parents, teachers and experts."
"New legislation introduced today on primary curriculum reform in England will drive up education standards across the board. Vernon Coaker confirmed that evolution will become a compulsory part of science education"
"Due to the positive response to Jim Rose’s proposals, few changes were made to the proposed Areas of Learning. However, after consulting with parents, teachers, the science community and other interested parties, pupils will be expected to explicitly cover evolution as part of their learning. Learning about evolution is an important part of science education, and pupils already learn about it at secondary school."

The independent review of the primary curriculum, the first in ten years, was led by educational expert Sir Jim Rose and began in spring 2008. The new legislation is based on his report, which sought the views of teachers, parents, pupils and subject experts and took over a year to complete. The Government accepted Jim Rose’s recommendations in full in April this year. The BHA, Humanists4Science and others commented on his review by 24 July 2009.

Humanists4Science Proposals on Evolution - Author: Chris Street, Dorset Humanists
  • in the Science, Life and Living sections include:-
    • Charles Darwins’ theory of Evolution by Natural Selection - the single most important idea underlying the life sciences. 
    • how organisms are adapted to their environments and how variation can lead to evolutionary changes.’ 
    • children should understand that, over time, organisms have evolved.
  • the Key Stage 4 curriculum (pg 224) states: -
    • Organisms and health - In their study of science, the following should be covered: 
      • a) organisms are interdependent and adapted to their environments 
      • b) variation within species can lead to evolutionary changes and similarities and differences between species can be measured and classified 
  • Humanists4Science recommend that part of the Key Stage 4 curriculum be included in the later stages of the Primary Curriculum viz. 
    • ‘to apply knowledge and understanding to describe how organisms are adapted to their environments and how variation can lead to evolutionary changes’ 
  • Humanists4Science recommend addition of notes:-
    • L14. to apply knowledge and understanding to describe and explain the structure and function of key human body systems including reproduction 
    • L15. to investigate the structure, function, life cycle and growth of flowering plants and explain how these are linked 
    • L16. to investigate, identify and explain the benefits of micro-organisms and the harm they can cause 
  • Humanists4Science welcome the example of the study of Evolution and Darwin (page 48) included in the report under Cross-curricular studies:-
    • ‘Schools that chose the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth to launch a study of this famous Victorian and his lasting contribution to science included learning about the journeys of the Beagle, mapping the route to the Galapagos Islands and the climate and conditions revealed through the voyage which furnished Darwin with a wealth of evidence for his theory of evolution.‘ 
  • Conclusion: 
    • Humanists4Science consider that Evolution be specifically mentioned in the Primary Curriculum.

Humanists4Science Proposals on Scientific Method. - Author: Chris Street, Dorset Humanists
Humanists4Science proposed (pages 16-17) that the 'scientific method' be included in the Primary curriculum.

We recommended that the scientific and technological curriculum be amended to:-

Pupils develop valuable skills in applying scientific method, that is generating and testing ideas, gathering and making sense of evidence, developing possible solutions, and evaluating processes and outcomes. They learn to distinguish evidence from opinion and communicate their findings in a variety of ways."

"essential knowledge should include "a direct reference to the value of science as a way of finding out true facts.

"addition of "how the scientific method enables us to learn truths about reality". Humanists4Science proposed that key skills, taken together, make up the scientific method. and that  scientific method skills are needed by children to make progress:’

"Conclusion: Humanists4Science consider that Scientific Method be specifically mentioned in the Primary Curriculum."

Submission by Humanists4Science

Who are Humanists4Science?
Humanists4Science group is for humanists with an active interest in science. We believe that science is a fundamental part of humanism but also that it should be directed to humane and ethical ends. Science is, in our view, more a method than a body of facts. Humanists4Science seek to promote, within the humanist community and beyond, the application of the scientific method to issues of concern to broader society.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just say no to sharia law

Let us support the courageous Muslims who, often at great personal risk, are campaigning against religious extremism
Comments (564)

Peter Tatchell, Thursday 19 November 2009 21.00 GMT
Article history
This Saturday's London rally against sharia law and all religious tyrannies should be huge. Millions of people are suffering at the hands of clerical regimes, especially our Muslim brothers and sisters in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Sadly, the turn out in Hyde Park will probably be quite small. This is odd. Most liberals and leftwingers would protest loud and strong if these persecutions were perpetrated by a western regime or by Christian fundamentalists. But they get squeamish when it comes to challenging human rights abuses committed in the name of Islam. They fear being denouned as Islamophobic. They confuse protests against fundamentalist, political Islam, which seeks to establish a religious dictatorship, with an attack on Muslim people and the Muslim faith. These are two very different things. Saturday's protest is in defence of Muslim people – and all people everywhere – who are victims of any form of religious tyranny.

While other faiths are also often oppressive, sharia law is especially oppressive. Its interpretations stipulate the execution of Muslims who commit adultery, renounce their faith (apostates) or have same-sex relationships. Sharia methods of execution, such as stoning, are particularly brutal and cruel – witness the stoning to death this week in Somalia of a 20-year-old woman divorcee who was accused of adultery. This is the fourth stoning of an adulterer in Somalia in the last year.

Somalia is an extreme example of the sharia oppression that exists in large parts of the Muslim world. As ever, Muslim women are often the main victims. Our rally is in support of Muslim women who are campaigning for equality.

We cannot accept the way many Islamic states, including western allies like Saudi Arabia, restrict women's freedom of movement, make women subject to the control of male guardians, deny women access to certain jobs and positions in government and enforce the compulsory veiling of women (the hijab, niqab, jilbab or burqa).

Speakers at Saturday's One Law For All rally include philosopher AC Grayling, columnist Johann Hari, Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasrin, Rahila Gupta of Women Against Fundamentalism, Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters, Houzan Mahmoud of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq and Muslim refugees from sharia law in Iran. The organisers have made it clear that supporters of the English Defence League and the British National party are not welcome. We reject their racist and anti-Muslim agenda.

This the key point of the protest is to show support for the many courageous, inspiring Muslims who are campaigning against the inequalities and inhumanities of ssharia law, often at great risk to their liberty and life. Contrary to the way our critics are trying to misrepresent our campaign, this is not an attack on Muslims or Islam. Nor are we uniquely condemning sharia law. We reject all religious laws and courts, including those inspired by Judaist and Christian fundamentalism.

In a democracy, everyone should be subject to the same laws, with the same rights and responsibilties. Religious rulings should not influence the laws or courts in any way.

Britain cannot claim the moral high ground: it is not a secular democracy. The Church of England is the established church, the official state religion. Some of its bishops are granted automatic places in the House of Lords, by virtue of their religious office, and they are able to speak and vote on legislation. No other faith in Britain has such privileged law-making status and power.

When I speak at Saturday's rally, I will defend Muslims and people of all faiths against hatred and discrimination. The victimisation of people because of their religious beliefs is just as wrong as victimising people because of their race, gender or sexuality.

However, it is important to acknowledge that the religious right, which exists in all faiths, is a serious threat to human freedom wherever it manifests itself – whether in the US, Iran, Russia, Italy, Uganda, Israel or the UK. This is why our protest supports secular democracy. We believe there should be a separation of religion from the state. No faith should dominate any government and seek to impose its creed on the rest of society. When this happens, freedom of expression is diminished and minority faiths are victimised. We saw this happen when Protestantism became the state religion in England and Catholics suffered great persecution from the late 1500s. We also see it today in Iran where the Shia-dominated state persecutes the Sunni Muslim minority (especially the Arabs and Baluchs). The reverse happens in Sunni-ascendant Saudi Arabia, where Salafi and Wahhabi interpretations of Islam are enforced and Shia Muslims, and dissident Sunni Muslims, are the victims.

For these reasons, secularism is not only an important element of freedom of expression. It is also the best guarantee of religious freedom, as it prevents any one faith becoming politically dominant and abusing its powers to oppress people of other faiths.

The organisers of Saturday's rally believe that Muslims and all peoples worldwide should have rights, freedoms and choices, in accordance with the principles of equality and non-discrimination that are enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are not "western values". They are international humanitarian values, agreed by the global consensus of the member states of the UN.

It is wrong to tolerate the denial of human rights to non-white Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, when most of us would never tolerate the denial of these rights to white (and non-white) people in Britain. There should be no double standards. No cultural and moral relativism. Defend universal human rights. One law for all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

'Please don't label me - let me grow up and choose for myself' campaign sparks charges of 'arrogance' in Belfast

source: via facebook comments

The 'Please don't label me - let me grow up and choose for myself' campaign has sparked off some rigourous comments from Christians and Muslims:

Reverend David McIlveen from the Free Presbyterian Church said: “It is none of their business how people bring up their children. It is the height of arrogance that the BHA would even assume to tell people not to instruct their children in the religion.

“I would totally reject the advertisement. It is reprehensible and so typical of the hypocrisy of the British Humanist Association today. They have a defeatist attitude and are just trying to draw attention to themselves. I think it is totally arrogant, presumptuous and sparks of total hypocrisy. I believe this doesn’t deserve a counter campaign. I will be expressing my public position on it in my own church on Sunday. I will be saying that this advert is another attack on the Biblical position of the family and will be totally rejecting it.

“It is a wasted campaign that will have no impact on family life in Northern Ireland.”

Father-of-four Sheikh Anwar Mady from the Belfast Islamic Centre added: “We believe that every child is born as a Muslim. Religion is not given by the family, but it is a natural religion given by our God at birth. The role of the family is to teach the traditions of the faith. But that faith is implanted at birth.”

The BHA said the billboards were being unveiled to coincide with Universal Children's Day on Friday.

Atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins, BHA vice president, said: “Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a “Marxist child”, an “anarchist child” or a “post-modernist child”.

“Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions and our adverts will help to do that.”

Read more at Belfast Telegraph

What Is So Bad About Religion?

my comments in green
What's So Bad About Religion? AtheistRevolution says
  • Religion is Inherently Divisive
    • labeling children as belonging to various faith traditions about which they may know little
    • segregating schools
    • taboos about marrying out of the in-group
    • [sometimes] dehumanize members of the out-group
    • [sometimes] makes the wholesale slaughter of out-group members permissible
  • Some Elements of Religious Doctrine are Directly Harmful
    • "end times" theology (has this spread to the UK?)
      • little motivation to improve one's world if one is convinced that the end is coming during one's lifetime. c.f. Humanists believe that this is the only life we have and that their is no other world after we die
        • If a politician is convinced that the end of the world is right around the corner, we cannot expect him or her to pursue policies in the long-term interest of our nation and the future generations which will inhabit it.
        • We may even be forced to imagine the same politician attempting to hasten the end through deliberately provoking wars, foreign occupations, and the like. I don't know of any politicians that really think this way - but then I don't live in the USA!
      • how many other institutions or belief systems could lead one to bring about mass destruction to hasten an afterlife? 
        • How many other institutions or belief systems could so effectively motivate the sort of suicide bombings that have become so common in Iraq?  Indeed, what is the psyche of suicide bombers?
      • the stubborn insistence that we cling to such antiquated ethical systems hinders progress in a number of important domains (e.g., human rights, gender equality, reproductive rights, slavery, stem cell research, etc.).
    • Summary
      • What is so bad about religion is that
        • it divides people and demonizes the out-group to the point where virtually any fate inflicted on them can be justified as divinely sanctioned. 
      • What is so bad about religion is that 
        • it fosters a primitive form of morality that hinders progress in virtually any domain beneficial to our modern world. 
      • What is so bad about religion is that 
        • it facilitates the commission of atrocities by good people who are merely pursuing "the divine."
    Read further arguments at Atheist Revolution

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    From buses to billboards: the next stage of the Atheist Bus Campaign is unveiled for Universal Children’s Day

    Billboard adverts have gone up today in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as the internationally renowned poster campaign which began this year on London buses launches its second phase. So much money was donated towards the campaign after the bus posters had been launched that the campaign organisers announced that any further money raised would be put towards new adverts later in the year.

    ‘One of the issues raised again and again by donors to the campaign was the issue of children having the freedom to grow up and decide for themselves what they believe, and that we should not label children with any ideology,’ said Ariane Sherine, original creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign. ‘I hope this poster campaign will encourage the government, media and general public to see children as individuals, free to make their own choices, and accord them the liberty and respect they deserve.’

    The posters display some of the labels routinely applied to children that imply beliefs such as ‘Catholic’, ‘Protestant’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Hindu’ or ‘Sikh’ mixed up together with labels that people would never apply to young children such as ‘Marxist’, ‘Anarchist’, ‘Socialist’, ‘Libertarian’ or ‘Humanist’. In front of the shadowy labels are happy children, with the slogan, ‘Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself’ in the now world-famous font of the Atheist Bus Campaign. The billboards are being unveiled to coincide with 20 November, Universal Children’s Day, which is the United Nations ‘day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children’.

    ‘We urgently need to raise consciousnesses on this issue,’ said Richard Dawkins, Vice President of the BHA, President of RDFRS, and co-sponsor of the campaign. ‘Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a “Marxist child” or an “Anarchist child” or a “Post-modernist child”. Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions and our adverts will help to do that.’

    Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education, said, ‘The labelling of children becomes even worse when it is implemented as a matter of public policy. One of the issues we hope to highlight with these adverts is the continuing and increasing segregation of children according to parental religion in state-funded “faith schools.” Social cohesion and preparation for life in a diverse society is best achieved in inclusive community schools, where children from different backgrounds learn with and from each other without being divided by labels that they are not old enough to have chosen for themselves.’

    The billboards will remain up for two weeks. The BHA has launched a fundraising campaign to coincide with the unveiling of the billboards which will raise money for campaigns to phase out state funded 'faith schools’.


    Images of the billboards and FAQs

    Billboard locations:

    London: Old Street roundabout

    Cardiff: 42 Merthyr Road

    Edinburgh: Portobello Road, Piershill

    Belfast: 74-76 Great Victoria Street / Bruce Street

    The Atheist Bus Campaign’s appeal for donations to fund the bus adverts was launched in October 2008, aiming to raise just £5,500. Within four days it had raised £100,000 in individual donations from the general public and went on to raise over £153,523, smashing its original target by 2791%

    Spin-offs from the campaign have included bus and other advertising campaigns organised by humanist organisations all over the world and a book edited by Ariane Sherine, ‘The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas’, the proceeds of which are being donated to Terrence Higgins Trust.

    In 2009 Universal Children’s Day marks the twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the sixtieth anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

    Articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child include: 

    • Article 2, where the child is ‘protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child's parents, legal guardians, or family members’; 
    • Article 13 which provides that the child should ‘have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds’; 
    • Article 14 which guarantees that states will ‘respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.’