Scientists win a Place for Evolution in Primary Schools

From the GuardianUK

Scientists win a Place for Evolution in Primary Schools

The government is ready to put evolution in the primary curriculum for the first time after years of lobbying by senior scientists.

The schools minister, Diana Johnson, has confirmed the plans will be included in a blueprint for a new curriculum to be published in the next few weeks.

It follows a letter signed by scientists and science educators calling on the government to make the change after draft versions of the new curriculum failed to mention evolution explicitly.

Full story can be found here.

Intelligence Squared – Is The RC Church a Force For Good?

Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world?

A new debate, presented from London by Zeinab Badawi

It stands up for the oppressed and offers spiritual succour to billions say the Church’s supporters. But what about the Church’s teachings on condoms, gay sex and women priests, ask the detractors.

Speaking for the motion, Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Anne Widdecombe MP. Speaking against the motion, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry.

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lt_zippy2’s opinion: This wasn’t a debate it was a massacre! Despite the heavy editing it was very clear from the beginning who had the upper hand. The list of atrocities committed by the RC Church in the past and even today were well expounded by Messers Hitchens and Fry, and the response from Anne Widdecombe was to complain “Why do they keep bringing up the arguments about condoms, homosexuality and child abuse?” The answer to this is simple (and was made by Fry before she repeated the point) It is because it is the main reason that they were debating, whay did she expect, “Oh yest it does proide charity and comfort, I suppose we conceed this debate and leave with our tail between out legs?”…and this point was not lost on the audience…I won’t spoil the result but it is a classic!

Plus it was great to see Stephen Fry, a newcomer to this sort of debate, really pressing the point home with personal vigour. We at Atheism, I’m sure, look forward to seeing even more from him!

The Evolution Of Confusion – Dan Dennett

Philosopher of science, Daniel C Dennett, author of such works as “Consciousness Explained”, “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” and “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon” delivered this lecture at the AAI Convention in Burbank California.

He talks about purposely-confusing theology and how it’s used. He also describes his new project interviewing clergyman who secretly don’t believe anymore, and introduces a new term: “Deepity.”

Click here: “Theologians are the spin-meisters of philosophy”

Transsexual Jesus – Queen of Heaven

About 300 protesters held a candlelit protest outside a Glasgow theatre over the staging of a play which portrays Jesus as a transsexual.

The protest was held outside the Tron Theatre, where Jesus, Queen of Heaven – in which Christ is a transsexual woman – is being staged.

It is part of the Glasgay! arts festival, a celebration of Scotland’s gay, bi-sexual and transsexual culture.

To read more click here to access the BBC News site

A New Twist on the Omni God

I was talking to a Muslim friend of mine a while back and he informed me that his god, Allah, was infinitely merciful, infinitley just and yet still sends sinners to an eternity of hellfire.

This is a new twist on the Omni god (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipresent etc) which is logically impossible, cannot and therefore doesn’t exist.

This was before I was able to debate effectively, so let’s now examine this claim.

1. Infinitley merciful: To be be merciful is to withold punishment that is deserved, in effect to forgive. To be infinitley merciful this god must forgive ALL transgression, and withold ALL punishments, for ALL people for ALL time. So far so good.

2. Infinitely just: To be just is to impose the appropriate level of punishment to every transgression. To be infinitley just mean to impose the appropriate level of punishment to ALL people for ALL transgressions for ALL time.

3. To send sinners to hellfire for ALL eternity, despite the fact humans are finite beings and any transgression that a human can commit is by definition finite.

So, infinitely merciful, just or punishing, which one is it because it can only be one or the other, all three are mutually incompatible. This god is impossible, it cannot exists therefore it doesn’t QED

Atheists examine Christmas from angel-free angle

From The Guardian 27th September 2009

It is a book about Christmas but there’s not a manger, virgin birth or angel in sight.

Buoyed by the success of their campaign which proclaimed There’s Probably No God, Now Stop Worrying on the side of London buses, some of Britain’s most prominent atheists have come together to publish a book for the festive season.

The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas features contributions on the theme of Christmas and God by scientists Richard Dawkins, Simon Singh and Adam Rutherford, agony aunt Claire Rayner, pop star Simon Le Bon, illusionist Derren Brown and Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker.

Due for publication this Friday, the book is already ranked at number 40 in the chart compiled by online retailer Amazon and could be a surprise bestseller.

Brooker asks whether a notional God would have a sense of humour, while there also chapters on the Hadron Collider and A Guide to Turning Your Home Into A Festive Something That Is So Bright It Can Be Seen From Space.

Writer Ariane Sherine, who masterminded and launched the atheist bus campaign on a Guardian Comment is Free post, said she was daunted by the idea of writing a book by herself, so enlisted the help of friends and supporters. “Virtually all the comedians I know are atheists and Richard Dawkins was very involved with the bus campaign,” she said.

Half of the profit will be donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust, the charity that deals with HIV issues. “Given some of the comments the Pope made earlier this year about condoms and Aids, we thought it was appropriate,” Sherine said.

She denies the book is anti-Christmas: “I wanted to make it clear that it’s a friendly, quite a happy book. I’ve sent it to some of my religious friends. The book is not just about being atheist – there’s a chapter on how to get on with relatives and ideas for party games.”

The Right to Offend

The Right to Offend

by Henry Porter

From The Guardian 23rd September 2009

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” says the Human Rights Act. This freedom includes “the right to manifest his (or her) religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

That’s a fine aspiration but of course the Human Rights Act (HRA) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be by its supporters. Take the recent case of a 54-year-old nurse facing disciplinary action for wearing her confirmation cross, she was forced to accept an offer of redeployment to a non-nursing role at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Although she had worn the cross throughout her 30 year service and no problems had been recorded, it was deemed to be a breach of uniform policy and – absurdly – a risk to health and safety, which of course trumps anything as elementary as the right to express your religious belief.

The trust made use of the second part of section nine of the HRA.

“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.”

Shirley Chaplin had an impeccable record of service as a nurse. It is astonishing that the Devon and Exeter Trust would think of using their power in this way. But it seems the Human Rights Act is incapable of protecting the Shirley Chaplin’s of the world from the martinets and busybodies that infest public services and local authorities.

In Camden, London, a Christian group has been banned from displaying a notice in libraries and community centres advertising a talk on climate change because it mentioned Christianity and God. One poster said “Climate Change is a Christian Issue” . The ban puzzled the people at Roman Catholic Our Lady of Help of Christians parish church because they were told that they could display climate change posters that did not refer to God.

Naturally, the church is unlikely to take this to the law in order to test a policy that forbids the promotion of religious ideas, it almost certainly has neither the money nor the time for such frivolity. And so the injustice stands. But if Britain had a bill of rights that entrenched religious freedom and expression and made their suppression illegal then things would be rather different.

One of the problems with the law as it stands is that it is not applied equally. And there seems also to be some kind of agenda at work, laws are used to enforce a sterile secularity in ordinary behaviour and expression. One of the most disturbing cases I have heard of is the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to bring a prosecution against a Christian couple that own hotel in Aintree, Liverpool.

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested after a Muslim woman staying at their hotel complained to police about comments they made during a religious argument over breakfast. They have been charged under public order laws with using “threatening, abusive or insulting words… that were religiously aggravated”. Reports suggest that the couple said that prophet Muhammad , the founder of Islam, was a warlord and that the traditional Muslim dress for women was form of bondage.

You may, or may not agree, with these sentiments but surely they don’t merit a prosecution in a society where a good deal of latitude shown to the racism and homophobia preached by some imams. I can’t comment on the exact details of what the couple may have said, or their manner, or the offence taken by the customer but I can say that free speech – even about religion – is the freedom to be offended, and that the decision to prosecute is about as daft as it gets.

I hope that every organisation now happily ensconced in London’s spanking new Free Word centre understands that this case is critical to the freedom of all expression and that they send representatives en masse to support the couple when they appear in court in December.