Interesting

Atheist soldier claims harassment

Atheist soldier claims harassment

JUNCTION CITY, Kansas (AP) — Like hundreds of young men joining the Army in recent years, Jeremy Hall professes a desire to serve his country while it fights terrorism.

But the short and soft-spoken specialist is at the center of a legal controversy. He has filed a lawsuit alleging that he’s been harassed and his constitutional rights have been violated because he doesn’t believe in God. The suit names Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“I’m not in it for cash,” Hall said. “I want no one else to go what I went through.”

Known as “the atheist guy,” Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and — just as severe to some soldiers — gay, none of which, he says, is true. Hall even drove fellow soldiers to church in Iraq and paused while they prayed before meals.

“I see a name and rank and United States flag on their shoulder. That’s what I believe everyone else should see,” he said.

Hall, 23, was raised in a Protestant family in North Carolina and dropped out of school. It wasn’t until he joined the Army that he began questioning religion, eventually deciding that he couldn’t follow any faith.

But he feared how that would look to other soldiers.

“I was ashamed to say that I was an atheist,” Hall said.

It eventually came out in Iraq in 2007, when he was in a firefight. Hall was a gunner on a Humvee, which took several bullets in its protective shield. Afterward, his commander asked whether he believed in God, Hall said.

“I said, ‘No, but I believe in Plexiglas,’ ” Hall said. “I’ve never believed I was going to a happy place. You get one life. When I die, I’m worm food.”

The issue came to a head when, according to Hall, a superior officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, threatened to bring charges against him for trying to hold a meeting of atheists in Iraq. Welborn has denied Hall’s allegations.

Religion a figment of human imagination

Religion a figment of human imagination

Humans alone practice religion because they’re the only creatures to have evolved imagination.

That’s the argument of anthropologist Maurice Bloch of the London School of Economics. Bloch challenges the popular notion that religion evolved and spread because it promoted social bonding, as has been argued by some anthropologists.

Instead, he argues that first, we had to evolve the necessary brain architecture to imagine things and beings that don’t physically exist, and the possibility that people somehow live on after they’ve died.

Once we’d done that, we had access to a form of social interaction unavailable to any other creatures on the planet. Uniquely, humans could use what Bloch calls the “transcendental social” to unify with groups, such as nations and clans, or even with imaginary groups such as the dead. The transcendental social also allows humans to follow the idealised codes of conduct associated with religion.

“What the transcendental social requires is the ability to live very largely in the imagination,” Bloch writes.

“One can be a member of a transcendental group, or a nation, even though one never comes in contact with the other members of it,” says Bloch. Moreover, the composition of such groups, “whether they are clans or nations, may equally include the living and the dead.”

Modern-day religions still embrace this idea of communities bound with the living and the dead, such as the Christian notion of followers being “one body with Christ”, or the Islamic “Ummah” uniting Muslims.

Stuck in the here and now

No animals, not even our nearest relatives the chimpanzees, can do this, argues Bloch. Instead, he says, they’re restricted to the mundane and Machiavellian social interactions of everyday life, of sparring every day with contemporaries for status and resources.

And the reason is that they can’t imagine beyond this immediate social circle, or backwards and forwards in time, in the same way that humans can.

Bloch believes our ancestors developed the necessary neural architecture to imagine before or around 40-50,000 years ago, at a time called the Upper Palaeological Revolution, the final sub-division of the Stone Age.

At around the same time, tools that had been monotonously primitive since the earliest examples appeared 100,000 years earlier suddenly exploded in sophistication, art began appearing on cave walls, and burials began to include artefacts, suggesting belief in an afterlife, and by implication the “transcendental social”.

Once humans had crossed this divide, there was no going back.

“The transcendental network can, with no problem, include the dead, ancestors and gods, as well as living role holders and members of essentialised groups,” writes Bloch. “Ancestors and gods are compatible with living elders or members of nations because all are equally mysterious invisible, in other words transcendental.”

Nothing special

But Bloch argues that religion is only one manifestation of this unique ability to form bonds with non-existent or distant people or value-systems.

“Religious-like phenomena in general are an inseparable part of a key adaptation unique to modern humans, and this is the capacity to imagine other worlds, an adaptation that I argue is the very foundation of the sociality of modern human society.”

“Once we realise this omnipresence of the imaginary in the everyday, nothing special is left to explain concerning religion,” he says.

Chris Frith of University College London, a co-organiser of a “Sapient Mind” meeting in Cambridge last September, thinks Bloch is right, but that “theory of mind” – the ability to recognise that other people or creatures exist, and think for themselves – might be as important as evolution of imagination.

“As soon as you have theory of mind, you have the possibility of deceiving others, or being deceived,” he says. This, in turn, generates a sense of fairness and unfairness, which could lead to moral codes and the possibility of an unseen “enforcer” – God – who can see and punish all wrong-doers.

“Once you have these additions of the imagination, maybe theories of God are inevitable,” he says.

Forget Intelligent Design

This is outrageous!

How can alternative theories to evolution be taught in schools such as Intelligent Design(tm) but not the others?

i.e. Were you aware that Pi is not 3.14159265 but in fact, Pi is exactly 3? How can we be sure? Because the inerrant book we currently refer to as the Bible, says so.

1 Kings 7:23 (New American Standard Bible)

Now he made the sea of cast metal ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits, and thirty cubits in circumference.

Now, if we do our biblical calculations using, C = r * 2 * Pi, in this case, C = 30, r * 2 = 10, which leaves only pi in question, which in this case, is clearly 30 / 10, better known as 3.

Yes, that’s right, the Bible says Pi = 3. Without a doubt, we should scrap any theory that says Pi is anything more or less than exactly 3. For heaven’s sake, the “scientists” defintion of Pi isn’t even rational! They can’t even properly define the number! I like absolute answers, as the one’s provided in the bible, that way I know the answer and don’t have to keep memorizing new numbers, it’s simply easier this way!

‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ (Ben Stein monkeys with evolution)

‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ (Ben Stein monkeys with evolution)

Droning funnyman Ben Stein monkeys around with evolution with the new documentary, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” a cynical attempt to sucker Christian conservatives into thinking they’re losing the “intelligent design” debate because of academic “prejudice.”

“Expelled” is a full-on, amply budgeted Michael Moore-styled mockery of evolution, a film that dresses creationist crackpottery in an “intelligent design” leisure suit and tries to make the fact that it’s not given credence in schools a matter of “academic freedom.”

Using loaded language and loaded imagery, Stein and Co. (Nathan Frankowski is the credited director) equate evolution with atheism, lay responsibility for the Holocaust at the feet of Charles Darwin, interview and creatively edit biologists and others (scientists “cast” for their eccentric appearance) to make them look foolish for insisting that science, not religion, can explain creation.

Stein and friends use animation (shades of “Bowling for Columbine”), amusing chunks of B-movies and even “The Wizard of Oz” and classic propaganda techniques to undercut 150 years of peer-tested research. Their goal? Create just a sliver of doubt about evolution. It’s a classic Big Tobacco/”Inconvenient Truth” denial tactic.

And God Gave Us Free Will.. or Not

 The reason evil exists in the world is because god(s) gave us free will, right? Doesn’t look that way.

Free will? Not as much as you think

You’re going to press that button, right? You know you’re going to press it and then . . . you make a conscious decision and you press it, right?

Maybe not, say German researchers in a new study published in the April 13 online edition of Nature Neuroscience.

Using sophisticated brain imaging techniques, the researchers found that they can predict people’s simple decisions up to 10 seconds before they’re conscious of making such a choice.

“It seems that your brain starts to trigger your decision before you make up your mind,” said the study’s lead author, John-Dylan Haynes of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany. “We can’t rule out free will, but I think it’s very implausible. The question is, can we still decide against the decision our brain has made?”

The study is the latest salvo in a longstanding scientific and philosophical debate over whether what we perceive as “free will” decisions are actually made before we’re aware that we’re making them.

A groundbreaking study, conducted in the 1980s by the recently deceased neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet, suggested that a region of the brain that prepares muscles to move showed activity a few hundred milliseconds before subjects made a conscious decision to press a button.

Violence Leaves Young Iraqis Doubting Clerics

Religion shows it’s true colors and Iraqi youth wake up to reality. Maybe there’s hope for the Middle East?

Violence Leaves Young Iraqis Doubting Clerics

BAGHDAD — After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

“I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers.”

Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad, said: “The religion men are liars. Young people don’t believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore.”

The shift in Iraq runs counter to trends of rising religious practice among young people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced nationalism as a unifying ideology.

Unaffiliated? Join The Growing Club

Seems that despite the ever loudening and aggressive Christian right, the American public is becoming less religious.

Many Americans religiously unaffiliated: survey

CHICAGO (Reuters) – When it comes to religion, more and more U.S. adults either have none or do not identify with a particular church, although the country remains highly religious, a survey said on Monday.

The report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found a constantly shifting landscape of religious loyalties, with the Roman Catholic Church losing more adherents than any other single U.S. religious group.

One in 10 Americans now describes himself as a former Catholic, it found, although that church’s membership is constantly being replenished by immigrants, particularly Latinos.

Despite predictions that the United States would follow Europe’s path toward secularization, the U.S. population “remains highly religious in its beliefs and practices,” the survey concluded.

But John Green, a senior researcher with the Pew Forum, told reporters American religion appears headed for more diversity, with the likelihood the country will be “less Protestant and less Christian” in the future than it is now.

The survey, based on interviews with more than 36,000 U.S. adults, found 78.4 percent of the population identify themselves as Christian. Of U.S. adults in general, it said 51.3 percent were Protestant, 23.9 percent Catholic, 1.7 percent Mormon, 0.7 percent Jehovah’s Witness and less than 0.3 percent each Greek or Russian Orthodox.

“The biggest gains due to changes in religious affiliation have been among those who say they are not affiliated with any particular religious group or tradition,” the survey found.

15 Misconceptions about Evolution

 Here’s a cool list about evolution, putting to rest many incorrect conceptions about it.

Top 15 Misconceptions about Evolution

15. Evolution is a theory about the origin of life

The theory of evolution primarily deals with the manner in which life has changed after its origin. While science is interested in the origins of life (for example the composition of the primeval sludge from which life might have come) but these are not issues covered in the area of evolution. What is known is that regardless of the start, at some point life began to branch off. Evolution is, therefore, dedicated to the study of those processes.

14. Organisms are always getting better

While it is a fact that natural selection weeds out unhealthy genes from the gene pool, there are many cases where an imperfect organism has survived. Some examples of this are fungi, sharks, crayfish, and mosses – these have all remained essentially the same over a great period of time. These organisms are all sufficiently adapted to their environment to survive without improvement.

Other taxa have changed a lot, but not necessarily for the better. Some creatures have had their environments changed and their adaptations may not be as well suited to their new situation. Fitness is linked to their environment, not to progress.

13. Evolution means that life changed ‘by chance’

In fact, natural selection is not random. Many aquatic animals need speed to survive and reproduce – the creatures with that ability are more suited to their environment and are more likely to survive natural selection. In turn, they will produce more offspring with the same traits and the cycle continues. The idea that evolution occurs by chance does not take the entire picture in to account.