Monday, December 27, 2010

Bill Gates More Admired than Pope, Llama and Glenn Beck say Americans

According to a USA Today/Gallup poll today atheist Bill Gates is more admired by Americans than any religious figure on the list, including the Pope, the Dalai Llama and the Rev. Billy Graham.  He also beat Glenn Beck, and fell in just after Nelson Mandela. Not too shabby.

The list is a mixed bag. While Barack Obama bested George Bush by a heavy margin (22% versus 5%) it's still a bit troubling that people like Billy Graham and the Pope appear on this list at all and that no scientists or say, artists or writers do. 
sexy > pious
Still, at least there is one conspicuous atheist on the list. Also, this is a recent change in attitude. The geek are inheriting the earth and the conservatives are losing steam. Here is the same poll's top 5 from 2008:

1. Barack Obama
2. George W. Bush
3. John McCain
4. Pope Benedict XVI
4. Billy Graham
4. Bill Clinton (last 3 tied for 4 with 2% each)

Now 2010:

1. Barack Obama
2. George W. Bush
3. Bill Clinton
4. Nelson Mandela
5. Bill Gates

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice Eclipse: Double Rainbow for Pagans

At the time of writing this, the moon stands occluded behind the shadow of the Earth, giving it a reddish hue. Now, a total lunar eclipse isn't a terribly rare occurrence, and it certainly lacks the panache of a solar eclipse, but this one's special. See, today, December 21 marks the winter solstice -- the beginning of winter and also an important event for many pagan cultures. Throughout history, not coincidentally, many holidays have occurred around this time period. Many pagan cultures have also followed the moon's changes and ascribed importance to them. As it turns out, the last time these two events coincided was in 1544, so it's easy to see how one could view this as a significant occurrence.

The Washington Post blog featured Neo-pagan Starhawk to discuss the phenomenon:
This year, Solstice coincides with a total lunar eclipse. The last time this happened was in 1544. The earth aligns directly with the sun and the moon, casting a shadow on the moon's face. The moon is a Super Moon, at its closest to the earth. And, so my astrologer friends tell me, we are also directly aligned with our Milky Way's Galactic Center, where the galaxy gives birth to stars. We are in a great birth canal, on the night when mythically Mother Night gives birth to the Sun Child of the New Year.
What does this all mean? For those of you who like to align your meditations and your magic with the movements of the stars, we stand tonight between the past and the future. For the first hour and a quarter of the eclipse, it's as if we step out of time. We are free of the past, and we can consciously create the future, for ourselves, for our communities, for the earth.
What does this mean, indeed, Starhawk.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Film That Brought Down Youtube in Indonesia

Geert Wilders, a Dutch parliamentarian leading the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, caught the attention of the world when he released a short film on his views on Islam in 2008, titled Fitna. The 15 minute film juxtaposes several passages from the Q’uran with images of Islamic terrorism. Of course, the film was to be a controversial bombshell, so to speak. But the response that ensued was not merely limited to the expected hordes of Muslims chanting ‘Death to Wilders’ on the streets of Pakistan, Iran or Afghanistan.

The anticipated reaction to 'Fitna'

In a situation paralleling the Danish cartoons saga, the Amsterdam Court of Appeals (Netherlands is ironically one of the most secular countries) ordered for criminal prosecution of Wilders for incitement of hatred and discrimination. The Dutch government sought to ban the film – when they couldn’t succeed, Dutch television stepped in by refusing to televise it. Wilders, intent on releasing the film, proposed that he would release it on his website – immediately his U.S. webhost Network Solutions took the site offline. Eventually, the film was released on Liveleak (even though staff at this British video sharing website faced death-threats in the process).
The international response? The government of Indonesia conducted a temporary ban on several websites such as Youtube and Rapidshare as they scrambled for ways to completely censor the film (the ban was later lifted). Wilders soon acquired armed bodyguards as death threats started pouring in by the hundreds from infuriated Muslims. Al Qaeda soon issued a fatwa on Wilders,
“In the name of Allah, we ask you to bring us the neck of this unbeliever who insults Islam and the Muslims and ridicules the prophet Mohammed.”
Below is the film, straight from LiveLeaks. It may not be the most accurate representation of Islam, and certainly preys on the viewers’ emotions (warning – several disturbing images). The message that the film tries to bring forth, however, was inadvertently best delivered through the extreme reactions that it elicited from the world audience. As Sam Harris rightly puts it,
The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn't, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn't, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do. When they burn your embassies or kidnap and slaughter your journalists, know that we will hold you primarily responsible and will spend the bulk of our energies criticizing you for "racism" and "Islamophobia."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Brave Atheist Activists Illegally Arrested, Later Vindicated

A recent episode at the Hawaiian Capitol is stirring public consciousness on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which calls for a separation of Church and State. Atheist activists Mitch Kahle and Kevin Hughes stood up in protest when the Hawaiian Senate president introduced a reverend to say an invocation prayer. Kahle bravely declared the following,
“I object. My name is Mitch Kahle and I object to this prayer on the grounds that it's a violation of the first amendment of the constitution of the United States. I object”
Guess what happened next?

The Senate Sergeant at Arms Ben Villaflor (also a former boxer) and his goons, intent on removing Kahle from the premises, roughed him up, shoved him out of the proceedings, and pinned him down as he tried to object. Hughes, who was injured as well while objecting to this attack, was subsequently taken to the Queen’s hospital for X-rays and treatment. The entire episode was caught on tape.

To add to the persecution, Kahle was then arrested for disorderly conduct. Of course, this was a no-brainer for District Court judge Leslie Hayashi, who took less than an hour to deliver the verdict of ‘not-guilty’, followed by the obvious explanation,
Number one, there was no disorderly conduct. Number two, he has a first amendment right to speak in a public forum such as he did. And number three, the legislature was violating our U.S. Constitution as well as the Hawaii constitution by having these invocations.
Let this episode remind everyone: we shall not be suppressed. You may seek to trample on our rights through physical violence or social censure, but we will always fight back. Mitch Kahle and Kevin Hughes are now on my list of personal heroes.

Kahle and Hughes are now (rightly) suing the State, Senate Staff and the Sheriff's Deputies.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cardinal George Pell - Atheists are immoral, purposeless

Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney since 2001, had quite a bit to say about atheists late last week. Presiding over the Installation Mass for the Australian Catholic University's new Chancellor, Pell apparently felt divinely urged to spill the beans on atheist immorality.
"A minority of people, usually people without religion, are frightened by the future.....It's almost as though they've … nothing but fear to distract themselves from the fact that without God the universe has no objective purpose or meaning. Nothing beyond the constructs they confect to cover the without purpose, without constraints"
Bottom line - An archbishop thinks atheists have no purpose, no constraints etc. Not very interesting.

What is interesting, however, is to delve into how moral Archbishop George Pell is. Let's take a look at where divine purpose and an adherence to Catholic morality leads you. And, of course, let's deviate from Pell's modus operandi and look at real facts.

1. Pell is against the U.S Freedom of Choice Act, which is a bill in the Congress that "declares that it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child; terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or terminate a pregnancy after viability when necessary to protect her life or her health"

Pell even goes further. He is against the contraceptive pill! The reason? "contraception has triggered a redistribution of wealth and power from women and children to men”. So according to Cardinal Pell, the right way to empower women with economic freedom is to force them to have kids they don't want or can't afford.

2. Cardinal Pell thinks global warming may be a pagan myth after all. Ah, all those silly, pagan scientists!

Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
3. Cardinal Pell agrees with Pope Benedict XVI that condoms are worsening the epidemic of AIDS in Africa.

4. Pell vehemently opposes Anti-discrimination laws against homosexuals.

.... the list goes on.

So in a nutshell, you don't have to be an atheist to be an immoral, wretched bigot. You could, instead, be the Archbishop of Sydney.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't dISSAppear for the winter yet, there's still one more show

Greetings godless!
Finals are coming up, so unfortunately, this will be the final (official) meeting of the semester. This Thursday, December 2nd at 7pm Karthik Manamcheri will be giving a presentation entitled Hinduism: A Socio-Economic Disease (or as I like to call it, The Trouble with Krishna). Karthik grew up in India and has some excellent insights into Hinduism and its cultural impact. Afterwards, we will be off to our last outing at Murphy's
Meeting Location: Mechanical Engineering Building room 253.
A Special Message from the ISSA Officers
It's been a great year so far, and we want to thank all of you for supporting us and making what we do worthwhile. We've had a lot of great events this year, like Minority Report, Blasphemy Day, Curtis Orchards and The Trouble with Christmas. We promise an even bigger semester in the spring. We'll be celebrating Darwin Day, hosting a panel discussion with the Navigators, and welcoming LGBT and secular activist/blogger Greta Christina to speak to the group. This is just a small sample of the terrific things in store, so stay tuned!
Upcoming Events:

Blood Drive -- December 6

There will be an ISSA-organized Red Cross blood drive at the Wesley Foundation United Methodist Church on Monday, December 6. The church is located on the corner of Green and Mathews: Google map     Facebook event page.

Please give! December is a perennial period of low donation rates and the RC needs our help to save lives.

Merry Atheists @ Merry Ann's! -- Every Sunday
Can't make it Thursday? No problem, come to Sunday Brunch.
Every Sunday at 11AM. Merry Ann's is located near Krannert and the Canopy club.
Best Wishes,




ISSA on the Web



Flickr Photostream