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Category Archives: Atheism

The belief in atheism – Daily News & Analysis

Posted: February 24, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Atheism or the absence of belief in deities has seen resurgence in recent times. It is most common is Western and Northern Europe where according to the 2010 Eurostat Eurobarometer Poll, only 51% of Europeans believed there was a God, while another 26% believed there was some sort of spirit or life force. 20% respondents claimed they neither believed in God or other spirits and forces. Individual countries had more extreme results with 40% of French citizens and 37% of Czech Republic residents claiming to be atheists or religiously unaffiliated.

Atheism and disaffection with organised religion is also evidenced in India these days where some people are renouncing organised religion and self- identifying either as outright atheists or non-religious. In fact, as per the 2012 WIN-Gallup Global Index of Religion and Atheism, 81% of Indians were religious, 13% were not religious and 3% were convinced atheists while the remaining 3% were unsure how to respond.

Bangalore based author and educator Ketan Vaidya has been an atheist for over 20 years. I realized religion evolved in the early civilizations of hunter-gatherers as a shield against fear of natural vagaries and bigger beasts.

Later Abrahamic religions fostered a sense of brotherhood and belonging. But I started feeling disconnected from organized religion around the time I was in 12th standard. Vaidya belongs to the very traditional Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu community and it was very difficult for his family to accept his new life as a ‘non-believer’. However, with the passage of time they got used to it. Its probably because my atheism is not the vitriolic kind. I dont judge or shame others for believing. Infact, when my children are old enough, I will introduce them to atheist thinking and let them decide for themselves, says Vaidya.

Mumbai based writer Fairy Dharawat who is also an atheist, concurs, I think atheism gets a bad rap due to some very aggressive atheists who try to drown out the arguments of believers. I believe in a live and let live approach. Infact, I sometimes participate in small rituals and ceremonies to keep peace in the family. Fairy moved away from religion because she was disturbed by the bloodshed caused in the name of God. She also finds several religious practices rather inexplicable. Why should I fast? Why would God want me to go hungry? If there is a God, shouldnt he be more concerned about solving bigger problems like global warming, hunger and poverty, she wonders.

Psychologist Deepak Kashya explains, A lot of educated Indians are beginning to see through the tactics of so called Godmen who use religion to control peoples lifestyles. This ability to identify religious hypocrisy makes people question their own belief systems. Freedom of thought and expression is important to modern educated Indians and often this manifests in their departure from ritualism and religious practices that they dont find relevant anymore, says Kashyap.

But there are many other Indians who havent completely disconnected from religion and yet understand why atheism is becoming popular. There are so many wars being fought in the name of religion. While there are terror groups and religious extremists killing and beheading people in the name of religion, closer home in India, we have seen political parties use religion as a trump card during elections to cultivate and sustain their vote banks.

Its no wonder people start feeling disconnected. Young people today dont want to be associated with something that is the reason for so much misery, explains 28 year old film exhibitor and distributor Akshaye Rathi. However, Rathi is a believer and feels that if religion inspires people to become the best version of themselves, perhaps it still has relevance in the world. Im not overtly religious. I just have a small shrine in my house. Every morning I stand in front of it and express gratitude to my maker for giving me such a blessed and privileged life, he says.

Meanwhile, as per the Pew Research foundations Global Study 2012 spanning 230 countries, 16% of the world population is not affiliated with any religion. This was corroborated to an extent by the findings of the subsequent Gallup International poll of 2015 that covered 65 countries where 11% of respondents were convinced atheists.

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Pope Francis Slams Hypocrite Christians, Suggests Atheists Are Better – Huffington Post

Posted: at 6:09 pm

Pope Francis is lashing out at Catholics who live what he called a double life by not practicing Christian values. He even suggested that atheists might be better than members of the faithful who dont practice the tenets of their faith.

According to a transcript posted online by Vatican Radio, the pontiff called it a scandalduring his morning mass on Thursday:

Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I dont pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money A double life.

The pontiff said many Christians were living this double life.

How many times have we heard all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere but to be a Catholic like that, its better to be an atheist, he said.

He gave an example of a Christian boss taking a vacation as his workers went unpaid — and issued a stern warning about where that will lead.

You will arrive in heaven and you will knock at the gate: Here I am, Lord! But dont you remember? I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this Dont you remember all the offerings I made? Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I dont know you. That will be Jesus response to these scandalous people who live a double life.

He then called on Catholics to examine themselves.

Francis has addressed atheism in the past, and in 2013 he seemed to suggest they may have a path toward Christian salvation.

A church official later clarified that those who reject Christ cannot be saved, but added that therejection of Christianity may not mean the rejection of Christ.

We can never say with ultimate certainty whether a non-Christian who has rejected Christianity… is still following the temporary path mapped out for his own salvation which is leading him to an encounter with God,Rev. Thomas Rosica wrote at the time.

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Testimony: ‘Akin to omitting gravity,’ ‘Materialistic atheism,’ ‘What we risk’ – The Spokesman-Review (blog)

Posted: at 6:09 pm

THURSDAY, FEB. 23, 2017, 3:15 P.M.

Among those testifying at this afternoons hearing on school standards:

Dave Greegor, a retired ecologist who long taught at the university level and worked with NASA on climate change, told the senators that omitting important facts is in effect lying. He said, This in my mind would be akin to addressing principles of physics and omitting gravity. He said, Fortunately the youth are way out in front. They arent going to be fooled by any omission of a few words. The earth is not a grand experiment. .. We dont get another shot at it.

Robert Compton of Midvale said he is opposed to the rule, and said schools have been unwilling to teach the evolution-creation controversy. Compton said, Idahos next-generation science standards are atheistic and based on materialism wherever they touch on the religious sphere. Thus promoting this bill does in fact favor the teaching of a religious position, materialistic atheism. .. Atheism has no valid source of moral values.

Of the first dozen people to testify this afternoon, Compton was the only one to take this position; all others urged approving the standards as-is, including sections on climate change.

John Segar, a recently retired fire director at the National Interagency Fire Center, said, I can tell you first-hand experience, I know what climate change is, I know what it looks like. He said, These university professors know a lot more about it than I do. . As a taxpayer, as a citizen, this stinks of censorship. He said schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra did a good job of ensuring the new standards were well vetted. This is a good package, he said.

Austin Hopkins, a scientist from Boise, said, I hope that you vote to support these standards as-is, with all the references to climate change. He said his interest and curiosity about science were sparked by an ecology class he took in his junior year at Centennial High School in Boise; now he has graduate degrees in science. He said, I think this is what we risk by not including these five standards, is hindering that spark.

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Atheist teacher under fire for saying ‘little cretins’ have ‘bullied’ her in … – TheBlaze.com

Posted: at 6:09 pm

An atheist middle school teacher is under investigation by her Florida school district after she posted a complaint about her students calling them little cretins whove bullied and harassed her over her beliefs on a private Facebook page that was screen-grabbed and made public.

Susan Creamer, a teacher at Merritt Brown Middle School in Panama City, had sought advice from the Atheists of Bay County, writing that a bevy of boys in one of my classes are taking turns either inviting me to church or leaving (anonymously) flyers inviting me to church events.

She added in the post: Every time any child sneezes, they loudly say God Bless You! and look in my direction. I have complained twice to the principal once last month and once today. She has spoken privately to one or two of the little cretins, but it seems to do NO GOOD. I am feeling bullied and harassed. It has become intolerable. I dont feel like talking with the parents will stop the inappropriate behaviors because, for all I know, the parents are encouraging them.

Creamer on Monday did not immediately respond to TheBlazes request for comment.

Karen Tucker of Bay District Schools told the Northwest Florida Daily News its against school policy to criticize students either in person or online and that Human Resources is investigating and examining the Facebook post in question, as well as other comments from Creamer on the Atheists of Bay County page.

Tucker added to the paper that writing disparaging remarks about students even on a closed Facebook page is a violation of school policy.

I dont think it matters [if the page is closed], because eventually someone else is going to see it posted, which is what happened, she told the Daily News. People were re-posting. If you said things on there, which she did, about students, no, I dont think it matters.

Tucker also noted relevant Bay District Schools policy to the paper: Teachers are encouraged and trained to keep clear boundaries between their personal and professional lives to ensure that the classroom remains a neutral and supportive environment. This training and related School Board policy includes guidelines for interactions on all social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook. We do not condone the use of disparaging comments about our students in any form, on any social media platform or in any school.

If the investigation concludes that Creamer violated the policy, Tucker told the Daily News she could be disciplined.

Nick Fish, national program director of American Atheists, told TheBlaze that if Creamer discussed principles of atheism in class, that could potentially be an issue. For example, saying in class that all religions are wrong or insulting believers would be impermissible. But that doesnt appear to be what has happened here. Simply indicating that she is an atheist isnt inappropriate.

Fish added that its frustrating that the administration hasnt handled this or given support to the teacher and that Creamer instead is being investigated: It certainly speaks to the stigma faced by atheists that a teacher can be harassed by students over her religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

Jeromy Henderson, a member of the Atheists of Bay County page, told the Daily News the districts investigation has turned into a modern-day witch hunt. He acknowledged that Creamers comments were off-putting, but she was just looking for advice about how to deal with them. Shed already been to her principal and was not getting results.

Henderson added to the paper that Creamers comments were made public by a group member who took a screen shot of her comments and then left the group.

Crystal Moseley wrote a letter to school superintendent Bill Husfelt, the Daily News reported, noting that Creamer should not be discussing her religious preferences (or lack thereof) with any of these students. Had she not been proudly boasting of her atheism these children would not know of her personal beliefs and I would not be addressing this situation. Secondly, as an adult in a professional occupation her choice of words to describe her students is completely unprofessional and completely out of line. Third, for her to seek out suggestions from a group on social media of how to handle her students (my children) has me outraged

Rebecca Warfield told TheBlaze that Creamer taught her during 7th grade almost a decade ago, but she doesnt remember Creamer ever speaking of her atheism in class.

Other commenters on Creamers Facebook page noted that she very well may have never mentioned her atheism to students but then again, her beliefs are already quite public in her Facebook bio, which indicates shes a wife, mom, teacher, actor, gardener, baseball lover, atheist, loyal friend, and proud nerd.

And while theres a huge mixed bag of comments on her page, both supporting and criticizing Creamer, several of her allies wrote that if her students have been invoking God in class just to get under her skin, they havent been acting like Christians.

Susan, as a Christian, I beg your forgiveness for my fellow believers for not seeing this for what it is: out of control students. And for judging you using the rules that we are supposed to apply to OUR OWN LIVES. Not yours, one commenter noted. I love you, my friend. I am praying for these hypocrites to find other fun.

Warfield has a different take.

I do not see inviting her to church as harassment she told TheBlaze. As for if they were doing it out of spite from her lack of religion, she should have kept it professional and knew the consequences of opening up her personal life to children who know they have freedom of speech.

(H/T: EAGNews)

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Republican rep says religion is ‘foolish’ and ‘denies reality’ – Sacramento Bee

Posted: February 23, 2017 at 12:59 pm


Patheos
Republican rep says religion is 'foolish' and 'denies reality'
Sacramento Bee
I have had many a discussion and debate with dozens of people on atheism and politics, Phinney told Friendly Atheist. Although fearful I am of this kind of thing affecting my political office, I will always stand firm in my beliefs (or unbelief
NH Lawmaker Brandon Phinney Defends Church State SeparationPatheos (blog)

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No God? No Problem: Atheism in AA as a Human Right – TheFix.com

Posted: February 22, 2017 at 3:58 am

Is AAs God as we understand Him as inclusive today as it was intended in 1939? A debate over the sacredness of AA language and rituals started in Toronto Intergroup and landed at the doorstep of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The Fixcovers the press release here.

I couldnt grasp what seemed to be the integral concept: the concept of God. I began to consider God as an acronym for Great Others Divine, Sharon, a Toronto AA member tells The Fix. However, in my cognitive struggle, there was the literature so chock full of Him with the capital H. I was unable to reconcile what I saw to be a rift too incongruent. I could not shake the ever-present notion that I was failing to grasp something key and, by extension, that I was a failure.

Sharon first came to Toronto AA in 1975, and a 38-year in-and-out struggle began. Sharons first agnostic meeting was in 2014. When I was walking out of that first We Are Not Saints secular meeting, This could work for meas incredulous as it seemedfilled my mind. Seeds of connection were planted. Sharon has remained sober and active in her agnostic group and as a regular in hospital and other AA meetings.

Lawrence was a member of We Agnostics in Toronto. His group was de-listed by Intergroup in 2011. Sincere efforts were made by Toronto AAs broader-path members to restore unity. A vote to re-list the two agnostic groups in 2012 failed and Torontos third secular group was de-listed, too. In 2014, while Sharon was finding lasting sobriety in agnostic AA, Lawrence filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Both the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup (GTAI) and AA World Services (AAWS) were named in the discrimination complaint. AA came under the microscope of the Human Rights law which states:

The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) states that it is public policy in Ontario to recognize the dignity and worth of every person and to provide equal rights and opportunities without discrimination. The aim is to create a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person, so that each person feels a part of and able to contribute to the community.

In AA, member rights, or AAs Code, is found in the six warranties contained in Concept XII in the AA Service Manual.

The AA Traditions accord the individual member and the AA group extraordinary liberties … Because we set such a high value on our great liberties and cannot conceive that they will need to be limited, we here specially enjoin our General Service Conference to abstain completely from any and all acts of authoritative government which could in any way curtail AAs freedom

So there seems to be no conflict between AAs individual and group rights vs. the Human Rights Code. Anyone with a desire to stop drinking can declare themselves a member. There is no vetting. Bill W. expressed AAs radical inclusion policy in AA Grapevinein 1946:

AA membership[does not] depend on money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobrietymay call themselves an AA Group.This clearly implies that an alcoholic is a member ifhesays so; that we cant deny him his membership; that we cant demand from him a cent; that we cant force our beliefs or practices upon him; that he may flout everything we stand for and still be a member So long as there is the slightest interest in sobriety, the most unmoral, the most anti-social, the most critical alcoholic may gather about him a few kindred spirits and announce to us that a new Alcoholics Anonymous Group has been formed. Anti-God, anti-medicine, anti-our recovery program, even anti-each otherthese rampant individuals are still an AA Group ifthey think so!

Lets compare how 1940s early AA America looked? Judeo/Christian adherents were 95% of Americans, 5% had no religion and 0% were other religions.Statistically, this means that less than half of 1% of 1940 Americans practiced a faith that wasnt monotheistic.

Statistically, God as we understand Him resonated with 95% of early AA members. In more fluid AA language, our narrative would use more contemporary language that would include a growing population of members who have more progressive spiritual or secular views. Heres some data from Pew Research:

The religiously unaffiliated population is expected to nearly double in size, growing from 59 million in 2010 to 111 million in 2050. The number of Muslims is expected to nearly triple, from more than 3 million as of 2010 to more than 10 million in 2050, making Muslims the third largest religious group in the region by mid-century.

The first group(s)like Larrys We Agnosticsthat took God out of the 12 Steps were Buddhists. In 1955 on page 81 of AA Comes of Age,Bill found himself defending non-theists’ AA Steps to AA traditionalists:

To some of us, the idea of substituting good for God in the Twelve Steps will seem like a watering down of AAs message. But here we must remember that AAs Steps are suggestions only. A belief in them, as they stand, is not at all a requirement for membership among us.

Celebrating 30 years of atheism in AA, original-six member Jim B., in a 1968AA Grapevine, coaches other AA non-believers. Jims article shared that The AA Fellowship became my Higher Power for the first two years, and, Gradually, I came to believe that God and Good were synonymous and were found in all of us.

The first North American AA for atheists and agnostics group (Quad-A) started in 1975 in Chicago. In 2017, around the world, secular AA gatherings happen about 400 times a week. The first international gathering for Secular AA was in Santa Monica in 2014, then Austin in 2016, and Toronto welcomes the world of AA non-believers in 2018.

How does Toronto Intergroup defend doing their own thing? Conceived by an unelected Ad Hoc Sub-Committee Re: Human Rights Complaint in Toronto Intergroup, the following legal defense was made as public record which included:

In order to be part of GTAI [Intergroup], a group must be prepared to practice the 12 steps and thus the members of the group must have a belief in God GTAI also submits that it is a bona fide requirement that groups that wish to be part of this Intergroup must have a belief in the higher power of God.1

Imposing requirements for a belief-in-God for AAs violates the Ontario Human Rights Code. People are free to believe in God in Ontario, but they cant impose views on others.

The right to be free from discrimination based on creed reflects core Canadian constitutional values and commitments to a secular, multicultural and democratic society. People who follow a creed, and people who do not, have the right to live in a society that respects pluralism and human rights and the right to follow different creeds.

What was AAWSs role in all of this? In the 2016 interim decision, it was still to be determined if AAs General Service Office was guilty of willful blindness. Delegates and concerned AAs, including Lawrence, made GSO aware that an unlawful practice was probably going on in Toronto, and an intervention was sought to encourage Intergroup inclusivity and toleranceand follow the rule of law. Heres where GSO may have been off-side, per the Code:

Organizations must ensure that they are not unconsciously engaging in systemic discrimination. This takes vigilance and a willingness to monitor and review numerical data, policies, practices and decision-making processes and organizational culture. It is not acceptable from a human rights perspective for an organization to choose to remain unaware of systemic discrimination or to fail to act when a problem comes to its attention.

Around AA, from coffee shops to secret Facebook groups, GTA Intergroups mandatory obedience to God requirement was a hot topic. Even the most adamant anti-agnostic deacons couldnt get behind Toronto Intergroups religious requirements for inclusion in AA.

The showdowns next step was mediation.

Kate Sellar, a lawyer with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre explained the process to The Fix regarding how the Tribunal can order remedial action if a respondent is found to violate the Code.

First, the Tribunal wants to put the applicant back in the position that he or she would have been in if the discrimination hadnt happened.

Secondly, the Tribunal can do what they call “remedies for future compliance.” The Tribunal can order a respondent to put a human rights policy in place where policies and procedures were not in place before, or to participate in human rights training.

In the eleventh hour, mediation succeeded and a hearing was averted. AAWS appeared to side with Lawrences wish to have his group included without Intergroup governance. AAWS did not side with Intergroups view that the 12 Steps are sacred and a belief in God is mandatory. AAWS was released by the complainant.

GTA Intergroup agreed to return agnostic groups as rights-bearing equals. In a report to Intergroup, GTA Intergroup acknowledgesthat the manner in which individual AA members or groups of AA members interpret and apply the Steps and Traditions in their own lives is a matter for those individuals alone.”

Is there a place for secular AA? Sharon, who recently celebrated three years of sobriety, deserves the final word: Now there are no thoughts that I am failing in any way. Now I have a firm foothold in the fellowship and I reap the same rewards as recognized by and accessible to others for decades. I credit agnostic Alcoholics Anonymous with saving my life and then giving me a life very much worth living.

Jesse Beach is a researcher/columnist for Rebellion Dogs Publishing.

In 2013, Rebellion Dogs Published the first secular daily reflection book for addicts/alcoholics, Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life by Joe C., foreword by Ernest Kurtz http://rebelliondogspublishing.com

Ontario Human Rights File Number: 2014-18832-1, Adjudicator Laurie Letheren, Interim Decision February 17, 2016

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Atheists Online: -How Atheists Grew An Active Internet Community- – Conatus News

Posted: at 3:58 am

The Pew Research Center

A

There are a multitude of websites aimed at an atheist audience.Many tend to follow the same lines, talking about problems of religion in society as well as attacking religious apologetics.These sites are tremendously popular, as many atheists were brought up in a religion and have some amount of animosity towards what they see as a repressive ideology that did them harm in the past.Atheists are by no means limited to religious talk, however.A number of sites are devoted to atheist political action, most of which promulgate a highly progressive political agenda.

Many atheists seek to do more online than read someone elses arguments, advice, or calls to action though.As with almost all media endeavors in the modern world, consumers want lots of content and lots of interaction.One of the most popular places on the internet for users to interact is Reddit.While there are numerous subreddits for atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and the like, the top dog is the /r/atheism subreddit. Currently with about 2 million subscribers, it is in the top 100 subreddits (

Some, who are willing to broadcast their atheism to the world, are able to reach hundreds of thousands.There are over 1,000 religious radio stations in the U.S. but I was able to find no atheist stations, and a very small number of broadcast atheist themed shows.That does not mean, of course, that there are no atheists in radio, but rather that a new niche has been created and populated very well, in online atheist radio and podcasts.Some of the most prominent atheists in the world, including Sam Harris, have a weekly podcast, but there are hundreds of others done on different aspects of atheism.Examples include

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Smith about his take on the online atheist community.Thomas told me that through his podcasting and online activity he has been able to develop meaningful relationships with others.He believes that the internet has provided a place where atheists can congregate without needing to physically go to any location, allowing the scattered atheist community to support each other. The internet is certainly a boon to any minority group, and atheist demographics, which skew young, white, and male, are also some of the biggest internet users.Thomas recently changed the name of his main podcast from Atheistically Speaking to Serious Inquiries Only, a step he said came in part from losing guests because of the societal stigma attached to the word atheist.He says that after the name change he had numerous people tell him they loved it, because now they could share the podcast with friends and family without outing themselves as atheists.

This societal stigma is certainly part of the reason atheists seem so drawn to internet interactions.Anonymity, or at least the safety of separation from those around you, provides the ability to truly speak ones mind.For atheists that means declaring their atheism.For atheists in some parts of the world that anonymity could literally be a matter of life and death, as there are

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As atheism rises, nonbelievers find one another – MyAJC

Posted: at 3:58 am

Jeff Newport can cite the Bible chapter and verse.

He went to Christian schools, attended church every Sunday and delivered his first sermon at 13.

In 1996, he was called to pastor a small Baptist church in Jesup with a congregation of about 30 for Sunday morning services.

Everything revolved around church, Newport said. We would not have even thought of missing a service unless we were ill. Family Bible reading and prayer were normal activities we never had a meal, even in public, for which we didnt say a blessing.

Today, though, the 46-year-old Savannah man considers himself a nonbeliever.

He lost faith in faith.

Its not easy being a nonbeliever or a skeptic in the Bible Belt South.

Move to a new city. Start a new job. Or meet a potential romantic interest.

One of the first things youre asked is: Where do you go to church?

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Religion is big in these parts. It can be the social center of a persons life. Often friendships are built within the walls of a sanctuary. Families worship together. Faith and where you worship not only give people a sense of believing but belonging.

Still, atheism (or at least the acknowledgment of it) appears to be on the rise though slightly.

Pews 2014 Religious Landscape Study found that 3.1 percent of American adults say they are atheists, up from 1.6 percent in a similarly large survey in 2007. An additional 4 percent of Americans call themselves agnostics, up from 2.4 percent in 2007.

The Washington, D.C.-basedSecular Coalition for America, for instance, boasts 29,000 people on its mailing list and more than 130,000 followers on its various social media accounts. Its followers include atheists, agnostics, humanists and other nonbelievers or those who arent sure of the presence of a higher spirit.

Thats an increase in 2016 of more than 5,000 new subscribers on their email list, more than 7,000 new Twitter followers and more than 10,000 Facebook likes.

Turning away

For Newport, it was a gradual change. For most of his early life, he never doubted the existence of God or the doctrines of Christianity.

The more he attempted to learn and weigh evidence pro and con, the more that faith began to unravel.

He left the Baptist ministry in 1999 and converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church. During his 12 years in this tradition, he gradually laid aside some of the dogmas of Christianity the reality of a literal hell, the inerrancy of the Bible, the exclusivity of Christianity as the only way to God, among others.

At the same time, he developed a love of science and the reliability of an evidence-based approach to find truth.

In 2012, he took a job that required work on Sundays. It gave him time and space to re-evaluate his faith. My faith couldnt stand up to this scrutiny. By the middle of 2014, I had quietly, but firmly, decided I no longer believed in God or the supernatural.

He has never approached the topic with his parents, who are dyed-in-the-wool Christians.

I think they would be disappointed, and would certainly worry about my soul if they knew I no longer believed, Newport said.

Newport is a member ofthe Clergy Project, which was formed in 2011 to create a safe and secure online community for former and current religious leaders who no longer believed in God. Many of the former pastors and church leaders prefer to remain anonymous, in part because of fear of being ostracized by family and friends. For pastors, stepping away from the pulpit can also mean loss of income.

The organization has more than 750 members in 34 countries.

Initially, all were from Christian backgrounds, but its members now include Muslims and Buddhists.

About a third of its members still serve in religious leadership positions, although they no longer believe in a higher power. It runs the gamut from more scientific stuff to more theological questions, said Drew Bekius, president of the Clergy Project. They see tragedy in the world, yet you see people claiming God just got them a parking space. So God will answer the prayer for a parking space while millions of people are in poverty?

For others, its more personal. Perhaps there was a personal heartbreak or death of a loved one. Perhaps they saw immense suffering and wondered how could God allow people to suffer?

A large part of it is that people are dissatisfied with the moral teachings of some of the religions they belong to, said Casey Brescia, a spokesman forSecular Coalition for America. For instance, a lot of people are turned off by their churchs position on LGBTQ equality. But also people are beginning to find community elsewhere. Churches dont play the same role in the community they used to. Its just a wide variety of factors.

He sees a growing number of younger Americans who eschew any religions, and that, he said, is a tectonic shift. That means that people are walking away from church and walking away from institutions that used to play such an important role.

In what has become an annual holiday tradition,American Atheistslaunches billboards nationwide urging viewers to celebrate an atheist Christmas by skipping church. Several of the locations in Southern states will be up later this year to promote the solar eclipse convention the atheists will host in Charleston, S.C., in August 2017.

It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe and dont believe is the best gift you can give during the holiday season, David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said in a release about the holiday billboard campaign.

Doubts and discomfort

Its hard to say how many atheists there are in the United States. Even the Pew Research Center has trouble giving an exact number. Why?

Its complicated.Some people who describe themselves as atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit, according to Pew. Conversely, some people who identify as Catholic, Protestant or Jewish also say they dont believe in God.

According to a survey by theAtheist Alliance International, most people who identify as atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, nonreligious or secularists are male, college-educated and more than a third are between the ages of 25 and 34.

Mandisa Thomas, the founder and president of theBlack Nonbelievers, a 3,000-member organization based in Atlanta, grew up in a black nationalist household.

In this age of information, she said, a lot of traditional notions are not holding up anymore. We are beginning to see the world is not right. Were told to just have faith or pray on it. Thats just not enough for people anymore.

Its especially hard for African-Americans, she said.

Religion is still so ingrained in the black identity that to openly state that one is atheist means that youre rejecting your race and culture.

Nonbelievers often talk about how uncomfortable it can be to navigate a world that can be largely faith-based.

You get a lot of unnecessary attention, and most of it is negative, said Deric McNealy, 28, a machine operator who lives in Jonesboro. People always try to come up and save you. They try to speak to you about God all the time or badger you, and that makes work very uncomfortable.

McNealy grew up in a Christian family that included church leaders.

He began to question things in the Bible at an early age.

As McNealy became older, he began to apply critical thought to all aspects of my life, and religion just happened to be one of the main things.

His family wasnt too happy.

I think its a lot easier today than in the past because of the internet, he said. In the past, there was no community, no communications for people who questioned their beliefs. Now we go online and link with like-minded individuals.

Atlantan Ross Llewallyn, who identifies as atheist, grew up in a Methodist household in Atlanta. I had a good time going to Sunday school and the service, said the 28-year-old software engineer. Over time, he began to think more about the presence of God.

I was always someone of science and reason and tried to be true and accurate in my understanding of the world, he said.

Take prayer, for instance. He was always told that before going to bed, he should get on his knees by the side of his bed and pray. He prayed for good things to happen to family, friends and himself. Soon he questioned whether he really needed to be on his knees. Why not just in bed? And why did he have to say his prayers aloud? Couldnt God just hear his thoughts? I started thinking more critically about things like that, he said.

EVERY DAY IS SUNDAY

Sunday may be the prominent day of worship in Atlanta, but thats changing as a growing number of other religions establish congregations in our global city. This is an occasional series that examines how religion impacts life in Atlanta. You can read the earlier entries in the series onmyajc.com.

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As atheism rises, nonbelievers find one another – MyAJC

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The Two Atheisms: How to Know Smart People Cannot Get Is From Ought – Patheos (blog)

Posted: February 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

When I was a boy, so long ago the New Atheists were young men, atheism was sold to us in many a science fiction book as freedom from the sexual repression that was killing us all. Someday, writers like Isaac Asimov promised, sex would be less of a mystery and a great deal more available. Meetings of atheists were proudly freewheeling.

They were governed by science and reason so they were going to get rid of archaic sex rules. At least in their conferences and sub-culture they did.

How did it go?

It did not go well. A new generation has arisen to suggest that the end result was using women like tissue paper. I know this is true, since my students had to deal with atheist big shots who seemed to think every female worker was a dating opportunity. A new generation of atheists rightly challenges the ugliness, but good luck prevailing.

The alpha males have no reason to do more than give lip service to any system you create. On the other hand, as they age, they might worry about an ethical system that might suggest they have a duty to die and stop using up resources. A Christian leader who has lived his life consistently with Christian values knows he can find a Christian place to let him die with dignity. An atheist leader has no such promise.

Our morality endures. Atheist morality keeps trying to say we ought when all they have is this is. Atheist morality changes all the time and yesterdays virtue (free love!), becomes todays vice. Sadly, there is no reasontothink that atheist leaders will listen to critics for now.

Is still does not give an ought and people with power in a system without transcendent morals will find reasons to ignore any barriers to their desires. Fighting the good fight is hard enough for those of us who believe in a real hell and moral absolutes. . . we have our own hypocrites, but at least they are hypocrites. Religion helps buttress morality.

Expose a pastor as a hypocrite and you harm his ministry. If you are creating your own meaning, you cannot be a hypocrite, just sly. You might be a cretin, and some of the leading atheists plainly are, but that judgment is based only on someone elses self-created meaning. When a traditional Christian sins, he might try to hide it, but he cannot claim it is virtue. The same thing has not been true with theStar Trek: the Original Series generation of atheist leaders.

They meant to set up a system where middle aged white men got power and women.

They are those who fame got them accessto the liquor cabinet as a localized celebrity and then they abused the liquor and the power. There is a reason that atheists lose more of their own children than any other group: the movement is ugly to the core. Findone atheist, secular, or non-religious web site that isnot dominated by being against everyone else and you have found the black swan. They exist, but they are rare.

When atheism is mostly white people angry with bad religious childhoods, there is not much future to the movement.Atheism is the only mostly white, mostly Western phenomenon in the world that gets good press as the cutting edge of history and that is not enough. Atheist kids get it and most leave as a result.They know the truth: the whiter the town, the more secular it is. The more diverse the town, the more religious it is.

Atheism cuts you off from African culture, Indian culture, and the parts of Chinese culture that are not running atheist motivated concentration camps. What do you have? The truncated bits of the West that does not include Shakespeare, Bach, Newton, Handel, or Michelangelo. You do get Isaac Asimov, the Amazing Randi, and Daniel Dennett.

It is all a bit sad.

If you inherited a Christian culture from your folks, you might leave, because you think you can keep the good and get rid of perceived evils. What do you inherit as an atheist? Read the Atheist Net. Eliminate rants against religion and you are left with almost nothing. . . except a population shrinking in every part of the world that is not mostly white. You are angry white males that hate Trump.

Thats not much on which to base a culture. Christians can be scientists, philosophers, and (mostly) ignore atheists. Periodically atheists get control of a country and start killing people, but fortunately, our American brand of atheists seem far from powerand more benign.

The second generation of atheists, the converts from some religion and the few kids who stayed, are busy trying to deeply reform the misogynistic, exploitative culture of the old atheist boysnetwork. I wish them luck. However, they should be warned: they too have a morality based on nothing other than what they prefer. They will be radically rebooted by the next generation, because all atheism has culturally been against something. When it is not us, they have to have the last generation of atheists.

They are a culture of repudiation and anger based on hurt. If religious people were not bad, there would soon be no atheists. For that reason, all of us who love God, Love Himself, cannot be triumphant in the rise of a second atheism. Mostly we look to our own problems. . . except when a cock a doodle doo from some new atheist reminds us that atheism has not been harmless. You can be moral without religion, though most agree religion helps, but there is vanishingly little evidence that an atheist can stay moral without religion.

Religious minorities all over the world have left and formed new cultures. Atheists stay and hope to hijack what is there. If not, they have never succeeded in making a culture.

It has been damnable, even by the standards of this generation of atheists. Because of reason and experience, I am a Christian. Maybe I am wrong and some other interpretation of reality is better, but this much is relatively sure: atheism is a dead end. They did not get ought from is in 1970 and my bet is they are doing no better now.

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Atheists and religiously unaffiliated need more representation – UConn Daily Campus

Posted: February 18, 2017 at 4:00 am

In the modern era, atheists, agnostics and other religiously unaffiliated persons have made great strides in gaining acceptance in society. One recent milestone was when President Obama signed an amendment to the International Religious Freedom Act to include protections for nonbelievers. A panel created by the law has criticized those countries that continue to persecute atheists, some of which even consider atheism an act of terrorism. Despite this, atheists at home still face large pockets of resistance in society and are one of the most underrepresented groups in the country in terms of political power.

According to polls taken by the Pew Research Center, more than one in five Americans are religiously unaffiliated. It should seem safe to assume that this ratio holds in government. Out of a Congress with 535 members, we should expect to see around 100 that are religiously unaffiliated. The number is close to 100 in a way, because its what we get if we take out the two zeroes. Only Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona is unaffiliated.

There are many reasons why atheists face such severe underrepresentation. Historically, of course, atheists were not trusted and were treated as heretics. Religious people who formed the majority of the nation in its earlier days clearly did not like atheists, as eight states still have unenforceable provisions banning atheists from public office. Of course, thats just history. Nowadays, people are more accepting of views that differ from their own. Thats why a whopping 58 percentof people say they would vote for a qualified presidential candidate who was atheist.

This is disappointing, to say the least. If a person is qualified for office, you should at least be willing to vote for them no matter their religion or lack thereof. This holds especially true in a country where we are supposed to have a separation of church and state. In fact, you could argue that atheists would be the best for satisfying this vision, and would indeed be the best group for maintaining proper freedom of religion.

Why would an atheist, someone who doesnt believe in God, be the best for preserving freedom of religion? Because freedom of religion also includes equality and consistency in the law among different religions. In other words, no one law can be made that derives from the beliefs of just one religion. So banning something like shellfish or pork would be putting the interests of one religion above others and would be unconstitutional. While there are many religions in this country, the religiously unaffiliated are, well, unaffiliated. That makes them the ideal group to make laws that will ensure equality between different belief systems, sort of like a third party arbiter.

This ties into one of the major problems regarding new religious freedom laws. Because the overwhelming majority of politicians are Christian, these laws are often skewed. For example, laws have been passed that allow businesses to refuse service to homosexuals. These are unconstitutional acts, because religious belief does not give you the right to discriminate and because such acts deny equality among religions. Homosexual marriage may be considered a sin by some Christians, but if other religions dont consider it so then a law against it does not meet constitutional requirements.

Our country was born out of a desire to have fair representation in our government. The underrepresentation of the religiously unaffiliated is one of the most blatant cases of the continuing failure to realize this ideal. One way to remedy this would be for more religiously unaffiliated people to put themselves out there and run for office. But a lot of the responsibility lies on our society to stop being so hostile towards them. 49 percent of Americans would be unhappy if a family member married an atheist. And when 42 percent of the population is unwilling to vote for even a qualified atheist, very few will be willing to run. Those that do will likely feel coerced to hide or downplay their beliefs out of fear of opposition, in comparison to Christian politicians who are allowed and even encouraged to flaunt their beliefs for the public. No citizen should be effectively prevented from a political career because of their beliefs.

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