Religious Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience if Laws Don’t Force Their Faith

Here’s an idea to all those fucktards taking part in these protests, stop forcing your religious bullshit on others. If abortion is legal, it has absolutely no fucking baring on your life. You don’t want one, don’t fucking get one. You don’t want gay marriage, don’t get gay married. What the fuck is your problem? You want to know why irreligious people are pissed off with religion? It’s because you guys are always shoving your bullshit in to everyone else’s life.

Religious Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience if Laws Don’t Respect Faith

A formidable coalition of 150 Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical leaders are calling on Christians in a new manifesto to reject secular authority – and even engage in civil disobedience – if laws force them to accept abortion, same-sex marriage and other ideas that betray their religious beliefs.

On Friday, these leaders released a 4,700-word document – called the “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.”

The document was signed by leaders ranging from evangelical leader Chuck Colson to two of the leading Catholic prelates in the U.S., Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, and calls on Christians to engage in civil disobedience to defend their doctrines.

The document also blasts the Obama administration, saying that social ills have grown since the election of President Obama, an abortion rights advocate, along with an erosion of what it calls “marriage culture” with the rise of divorce, greater acceptance of infidelity and the uncoupling of marriage from childbearing.

Colson says the project is aimed at instilling social conservative beliefs in a new generation of believers.

“We argue that there is a hierarchy of issues,” he told The New York Times. “A lot of younger evangelicals say they’re all alike. We’re hoping to educate them that these are the three most important issues” – abortion marriage and religious liberty.

“We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them,” says the declaration, which was drafted by Colson, an evangelical, and Princeton University professor Robert P. George, a Roman Catholic.

The declaration lists the “fundamental truths” as the “sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and the rights of conscience and religious liberty.”

“Throughout the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required,” says the document which cited civil rights icon Martin Luther King and his willingness to go to jail for his beliefs.

“Because we honor justice and the common good,” it states, “we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide or euthanasia or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.”

George and other signers backed off from specifically defining what civil disobedience may entail. Wuerl’s office played down the civil disobedience wording, saying he wasn’t urging Catholics to “do anything specific,” his spokeswoman Susan Gibbs told The Washington Post. “That wasn’t something we had talked about.”

“We certainly hope it doesn’t come to that,” said George, who told The Washington Times that he has represented a West Virginia resident who has refused to pay a portion of her state income tax that funds abortions. “However, we see case after case of challenges to religious liberty,” such as compelling pharmacists to carry abortifacient drugs or health care workers to assist in abortions, he added.

“When the limits of conscience are reached and you cannot comply, it’s better to suffer a wrong than to do it,” he said.

Unveiling the declaration Friday, Archbishop Wuerl appeared at a news conference in the District of Columbia even as the Church was considering a city-proposed compromise on its same-sex marriage measure.

He and other Church officials say the bill would require faith-based groups like Catholic Charities to extend benefits to married same-sex partners, thus forcing Christians to abandon their religious liberty. On Friday, Catholic Charities of Boston halted adoption services rather than comply with state law and allow children to be adopted by homosexual couples.

Other signatories to the document include Cardinal Justin Rigali, outgoing chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities; Pentecostal leader Harry Jackson, pastor of a Beltsville church; evangelical activist Tony Perkins; and National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson.

Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Newsweek the point of the Declaration is really to avoid mistakes of the past, such as when religious leaders did not stand up early enough against no-fault divorce, which he says led directly to the breakup of families and high divorce rates.

“I’m a former police officer, and I have hard time with civil disobedience, but if it comes to the point where our religious liberty is at risk, I’d not only participate but would encourage people to resist.”

The leaders are urging the public to sign the online document.

Read the full document here

Scientology a ‘criminal organisation’

Scientology a ‘criminal organisation’

The Church of Scientology says allegations made in Federal Parliament by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon are an abuse of parliamentary privilege.

Senator Xenophon used a speech in Parliament last night to raise allegations of widespread criminal conduct within the church, saying he had received letters from former followers detailing claims of abuse, false imprisonment and forced abortion.

He says he has passed on the letters to the police and is calling for a Senate inquiry into the religion and its tax-exempt status.

“I am deeply concerned about this organisation and the devastating impact it can have on its followers,” he told the Senate.

A spokeswoman for the church, Virginia Stewart, says she is shocked to hear Senator Xenophon’s claims, as no-one within the church seems disgruntled.

“If these people had key issues, then how come they haven’t contacted the church officially?” she said.

“We actually have an entire section that responds to people. So if someone has a complaint about the church, we really are so happy to meet with them.”

Ms Stewart says the church tried to contact Senator Xenophon earlier this year after he spoke about Scientology on television.

“We offered to meet with him, to be completely open, answer any of his questions,” she said.

“He didn’t even bother to reply so I think it’s a bit disingenuous that someone stands up in Parliament, where they can say whatever they want.

“He hasn’t even spoken with us before, and we have attempted to speak with him.”

Parliamentary speech

Senator Xenophon told Parliament the Church of Scientology was a criminal organisation that hides behind its “so-called religious beliefs”.

“Do you want Australian tax exemptions to be supporting an organisation that coerces its followers into having abortions? Do you want to be supporting an organisation that defrauds, that blackmails, that falsely imprisons?” he asked.

“Because on the balance of evidence provided by victims of Scientology you probably are.

“The letters received by me which were written by former followers in Australia contain extensive allegations of crimes and abuses that are truly shocking.

“These victims of Scientology claim it is an abusive, manipulative and violent organisation.”

Thanks to JT Hundley for this submission.

Evolution to be compulsory subject in primary schools

First good news I’ve heard out of England in a while..

Evolution to be compulsory subject in primary schools

Evolution will become a compulsory subject for study in all state primary schools, the Government announced today.

Darwin’s theory of how life evolved through natural selection will be a legal requirement in science teaching from September 2011, although it will be left to schools to decide how this is done.

The move, which was welcomed by scientists, comes despite a drive to slim down the national curriculum for primary schools and leave teachers greater discretion over what to teach.

Church and other faith schools within the state system will have to comply although officials said the theory of evolution could be taught in a context that reflected a school’s ethos, in a similar way to compulsory sex education for children aged under 15.

“You could do that within the ethos of the school. If as a school, in consultation with governors and parents, you have a particular take on that, you would still be able to do that,” said a spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The change, included in a Bill introduced in the Commons today, follows a review of the curriculum for primary schools published earlier this year by Sir Jim Rose.

A consultation on his proposals to loosen the number of formal topics taught in primary schools prompted calls for the curriculum explicitly to include evolution. More than 500 scientists and supporters signed an e-petition to Downing Street urging such a change.

The new curriculum is to include a requirement “to investigate and explain how plants and animals are ‘interdependent’ and are diverse and adapted to their environment by natural selection”.

The age at which children must be taught about evolution is not specified; it must be included in science lessons “in the later stage of the primary education”.

The Royal Society applauded the decision and said that it would send booklets to all teacher training colleges with information and advice for new teachers on how to explain natural selection.

Professor Sir Martin Taylor, its vice-president, said: “We are delighted to see evolution explicitly included in the primary curriculum. One of the most remarkable achievements of science over the last 200 years has been to show how humans and all other organisms on the Earth arose through the process of evolution.

“Learning about evolution can be an extraordinary, exciting and inspiring experience for children. Teachers should aim to explain why evolution by natural selection is the only known way of understanding all the available evidence.”

Teaching British history is to be another specific requirement for primary schools, Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, announced.

The changes to slim down the curriculum mean scrapping the requirement to teach specific subjects and instead specifying six areas of learning in which, for example, history, geography and society could be combined.

Science and technology would become another such strand, as could English, communications and language, although “mathematical understanding” will remain separate.

Although British history will be mandatory, no monarchs, battles, rulers or events are specified. Guidance notes published with the curriculum refer to the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans when learning about invastions and settlement.

Ozawa lashes out with scathing remarks on Christianity

Top Japan pol calls Christianity self-righteous, Islam hardly better

A top politician in Japan’s ruling Democratic Party has praised Buddhism while calling Christianity “exclusive and self-righteous” and Islam only somewhat better.  Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa made the remarks after meeting the head of the Japan Buddhist Federation, a group traditionally close to the rival Liberal Democratic Party, which was trounced by the Democrats in an August election.

Christianity “is an exclusive and self-righteous religion. And society in the United States and Europe, which are based on Christianity, are at a dead end,” the Nikkei newspaper quoted Ozawa as telling reporters after the meeting. “Islam is better, but it is also exclusive.”

Ozawa, seen by some as the mastermind behind the Democrats’ election win, had kinder words for Buddhism, which along with Shinto is the dominant religion in Japan, although many people take a mostly secular and eclectic view.  Christians are a tiny minority and Muslims are few in Japan.

“Buddhism teaches us from the starting point of how human beings should be, their state of mind and way of life,” he said.

Religious organisations can pack clout in Japanese politics because of their ability to mobilise voters, but politicians tend to shun public remarks about people’s beliefs.

Then-prime minister Yoshiro Mori caused a furore in 2000 when he referred to Japan as a “divine nation with the emperor at its centre”, stirring memories of the state Shintoism that helped to mobilise support for Japan’s wartime military aggression. He later apologised publicly.

Ozawa lashes out with scathing remarks on Christianity

Ichiro Ozawa, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, criticized Christianity on Tuesday, saying the religion is “exclusive and self-righteous” and that Western society is “stuck in a dead end.”

Ozawa also said “Islamism is also exclusive, although it’s somewhat better than Christianity” regarding exclusiveness.

The comments will no doubt cause a stir as he is the most influential figure in the ruling party.

He made the comments to reporters after meeting with Yukei Matsunaga, chairman of the Japan Buddhist Federation, a body of 102 Buddhist sects and groups, in Koyacho, Wakayama Prefecture.

Christianity “is an exclusive, self-righteous religion. Western society, whose background is Christianity, has been stuck in a dead end,” Ozawa said.

“Modern society has forgotten or lost sight of the sprit of the Japanese people,” he said. “Buddhism teaches you how humans should live and how the conditions of the mind should be from a fundamental standpoint.”

Thanks to kchiu for these stories.

Muslim academics and students are turning against Darwin’s theory

Muslim academics and students are turning against Darwin’s theory

Muslims in many countries are increasingly rejecting Darwin’s theory of evolution, under the influence of conservative elements in Islam, a science conference was told yesterday.

Nidhal Guessoum, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, told the conference, being held in Egypt by the British Council, that in too many places students and academics believed they had to make a “binary choice” between evolution and creationism, rather than understanding that one could believe both in God and in Darwin’s theory.

Dr Guessoum, who is a Sunni Muslim, said that in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia, only 15 per cent of those surveyed believed Darwin’s theory to be “true” or “probably true”. This stand was equally prevalent among students and teachers, from high school to university. Most alarmingly, he claimed, science teachers were misrepresenting the facts and theories of evolution by mixing it with religious ideologies.

A survey of 100 academics and 100 students that he conducted at his own university showed that 62 per cent of Muslim professors and students believed evolution to be an “unproven theory”, compared with 10 per cent of non-Muslim professors. “The rate of acceptance of evolution and of the idea of teaching evolution was extremely low,” he said. “I wondered, who are all these educated people rejecting evolution? They are even rejecting the fact that it should be taught as scientific knowledge.”

Evolution did not contradict Islamic beliefs, Dr Guessoum said, unless a literal reading of the texts were adopted. “Many Muslim scholars, from the golden age of Islam to today, adopted an evolutionary world view,” he said.

Addressing the conference in Alexandria, organised for the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, he said that concerns among Muslims about evolution were being fuelled by Christian creationists. People in Muslim countries would find creationist theses on the internet and, not realising that these were on the fringes of scientific debate, assume that creationism had scientific credibility in the West.

“It is a serious problem,” he said. “It would be like going to my students and telling them the planets are not related to the stars, there is no relationship between them and gravitational pull or radiation, and they were all created on one day. We would not dream of describing the cosmos in such a ridiculous manner … We cannot allow people to go into the 21st century with no understanding of science.”

Science and faith

— Charles Darwin lost his faith, but did not become anti-religion. The Rev John Brodie Innes, his friend and parish priest, wrote: “I never saw a word in his writings which was an attack on Religion. He follows his own course as a Naturalist and leaves Moses to take care of himself”

— The trial in 1925 of John Scopes, who taught his high school class about evolution, tested a Tennessee law that made it illegal “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of Man as taught in the Bible”. Scopes’s conviction was overturned on a technicality

— In 1968 Susan Epperson challenged the state of Arkansas for preventing her from teaching evolution to her students. The Supreme Court ruled in her favour

— Last year a Muslim creationist succeeded in getting the website of the leading atheist Richard Dawkins banned in Turkey. Adnan Oktar, from Ankara, offered £4.4 trillion to anyone who can point to a single fossil that proves evolution

Nichols Hills doctor said ‘he’s got the devil in him’ during fatal assault on son, police report

Nichols Hills doctor said ‘he’s got the devil in him’ during fatal assault on son, police report

NICHOLS HILLS – The doctor accused of fatally stabbing his son Monday repeatedly said his son had “the devil in him,” police reported today in a court arrest affidavit.

Stephen P. Wolf, 51, tried to stab his son again even after a police officer broke up the assault in the kitchen of the home at 1715 Elmhurst Ave., according to the arrest affidavit.

Wolf is in the Oklahoma County jail. His son, Tommy, was 9.

The doctor has a history of mental issues that included hospital stays for depression. He saw a psychotherapist in the 1980s while in medical school and was under the care of a psychiatrist in 1996, his medical records show.

A neighbor, Douglas Woodson, told police the doctor “was under review at his hospital for anger issues,” police reported in the affidavit. The neighbor also told police the doctor “was supposed to go to a rehab facility for the anger plus drug and alcohol abuse.”

A police officer was sent to the house at 3:52 a.m. Monday after a neighbor called 911.

The police officer then went to the doctor’s house after hearing screaming. The doctor’s wife, Mary Wolf, told the officer, “He’s killing my son. He’s killing my son,” according to the affidavit.

The officer found the blood-covered doctor in the kitchen on his knees “wrestling with something up against a cabinet door and a dishwasher,” according to the affidavit. The officer later determined Wolf had been over his son.

The officer “ordered Mr. Wolf at gun point to stop and put his hands up,” police reported. “At that time, Mr. Wolf raised his hands to about head level and looked back at Officer Michael Puckett and said, ‘He’s got the devil in him and you know it’ several times.”

The victim had a knife lodged in the upper section of his head and a knife stuck in the right part of the chest, police reported.

The police officer ordered the doctor to get on his stomach and the doctor said again several times, “You know he’s got the devil in him,” according to the affidavit.

The victim then began to convulse and “Mr. Wolf leapt up off the floor and said, ‘He’s not dead’ and tried to grab a knife from the body to continue the assault,” police reported.

The officer pulled the doctor away and a knife fell from the doctor’s hand, police reported. The doctor twice more tried to reach for the knife, forcing the officer to hit the doctor until the officer could toss the knife away, police reported.

The doctor was handcuffed when another officer arrived.

The Information Challenge By Richard Dawkins

The Information Challenge By Richard Dawkins

In September 1997, I allowed an Australian film crew into my house in Oxford without realising that their purpose was creationist propaganda. In the course of a suspiciously amateurish interview, they issued a truculent challenge to me to “give an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information in the genome.” It is the kind of question only a creationist would ask in that way, and it was at this point I tumbled to the fact that I had been duped into granting an interview to creationists — a thing I normally don’t do, for good reasons. In my anger I refused to discuss the question further, and told them to stop the camera. However, I eventually withdrew my peremptory termination of the interview as a whole. This was solely because they pleaded with me that they had come all the way from Australia specifically in order to interview me. Even if this was a considerable exaggeration, it seemed, on reflection, ungenerous to tear up the legal release form and throw them out. I therefore relented.

My generosity was rewarded in a fashion that anyone familiar with fundamentalist tactics might have predicted. When I eventually saw the film a year later 1, I found that it had been edited to give the false impression that I was incapable of answering the question about information content 2. In fairness, this may not have been quite as intentionally deceitful as it sounds. You have to understand that these people really believe that their question cannot be answered! Pathetic as it sounds, their entire journey from Australia seems to have been a quest to film an evolutionist failing to answer it.

With hindsight — given that I had been suckered into admitting them into my house in the first place — it might have been wiser simply to answer the question. But I like to be understood whenever I open my mouth — I have a horror of blinding people with science — and this was not a question that could be answered in a soundbite. First you first have to explain the technical meaning of “information”. Then the relevance to evolution, too, is complicated — not really difficult but it takes time. Rather than engage now in further recriminations and disputes about exactly what happened at the time of the interview (for, to be fair, I should say that the Australian producer’s memory of events seems to differ from mine), I shall try to redress the matter now in constructive fashion by answering the original question, the “Information Challenge”, at adequate length — the sort of length you can achieve in a proper article.

… continues

The Vatican joins the search for alien life

The Vatican joins the search for alien life

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is holding a conference on astrobiology, the study of life beyond Earth, with scientists and religious leaders gathering in Rome this week.

For centuries, theologians have argued over what the existence of life elsewhere in the universe would mean for the Church: at least since Giordano Bruno, an Italian monk, was put to death by the Inquisition in 1600 for claiming that other worlds exist.

Among other things, extremely alien-looking aliens would be hard to fit with the idea that God “made man in his own image”.

Furthermore, Jesus Christ’s role as saviour would be confused: would other worlds have their own, tentacled Christ-figures, or would Earth’s Christ be universal?

However, just as the Church eventually made accommodations after Copernicus and Galileo showed that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, and when it belatedly accepted the truth of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Catholic leaders say that alien life can be aligned with the Bible’s teachings.

Father Jose Funes, a Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican Observatory and one of the organisers of the conference, said: “As a multiplicity of creatures exists on Earth, so there could be other beings, also intelligent, created by God.

“This does not conflict with our faith, because we cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God.”

Not everyone agrees. Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist and author of The Goldilocks Enigma, told The Washington Post that the threat to Christianity is “being downplayed” by Church leaders. He said: “I think the discovery of a second genesis would be of enormous spiritual significance.

“The real threat would come from the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, because if there are beings elsewhere in the universe, then Christians, they’re in this horrible bind.

“They believe that God became incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ in order to save humankind, not dolphins or chimpanzees or little green men on other planets.”

The Academy conference will include presentations from scientists – by no means all of them Christians – on the discovery of planets outside our solar system, the geological record of early life on Earth, how life might have started on Earth, and whether “alien” life of a different biochemistry to our own might exist here without our knowing, among many other things.

Thanks again to JT Hundley for this one.