Haven’t Christians heard of the Streisand effect?

A billboard put by American Atheists in Monroe, LA that said “Make Christmas Great Again. Skip church!” was taken down within two hours because of local protests. I found it amusing that one of the critics said that it was because it is a community of “strong believers”. Actually this shows the opposite. People whose beliefs are strong would not care. It is because their beliefs are so weak that they are fearful of encountering a message that challenges it.

As a result of the resulting news coverage, more people locally and around the country heard about the billboard than if the locals had simply ignored it. American Atheists are now moving the billboard to another area, likely hoping for a similar reaction there. They can stretch their advertising dollars a lot by putting up billboards for just a short time.

Unusual patterns in beliefs about religion, spirituality, god, and ghosts

I came across this 2007 survey about British public attitudes towards religion and other beliefs such as ghosts, telepathy, witches, and the like. The survey found that only 37% of the respondents said that they considered themselves religious but a much larger 56% said they believed in god. So there must be many who think that being religious involves more than believing in god, such as attending religious services or being involved in other religious exercises.
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Authoritarians tend to flock together

Donald Trump has the habit of effusively praising anyone who supports him or says something nice about him. So when in the last debate, he spoke about meeting with “high representatives of India”, people scratched their heads wondering whom he might have been referring to, since there seemed to have been no meeting with any representatives of the government of India.
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Another rule for Catholics to ignore

The Catholic church seems intent ion creating rules based on convoluted doctrinal reasoning that its followers are likely to ignore. The latest involves cremation, a practice allowed by the church in 1963 and that is increasingly favored by people over burial. The issue is what to do with the ashes. Up to now, people have had the freedom to choose, according to the wishes of the deceased or of the relatives of the deceased. This has led to some unusual methods of disposal.
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The danger posed by Catholic hospitals

Catholic hospitals often provide health care in areas where there is no other facility. But Samantha Bee gives a powerful message about the danger posed by Catholic hospitals becoming such a large part of the health care network, because of the way they reject any medical procedures that go against their medieval beliefs, even if the end result of their decisions is death.
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Rise of religious intolerance in the sub-continent

There has been a disturbing rise of a virulent strain of Hindu extremism in India, similar to the Muslim extremism we have seen in neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh and to Buddhist intolerance in Sri Lanka. In India, one form that this has taken is attacking those who eat beef, which observant Hindus do not do due to the cow having been raised to almost sacred status.
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Singapore jails teenager for wounding religious feelings

Singapore is a weird country. It is technologically advanced, very modern society, boasting one of the highest standards of living and education and literacy in the world. And yet, when it comes to basic civil liberties, it is atrocious, criminalizing all manner of speech and behavior that would not raise an eyebrow in other countries that are similar to it. It has (or at least used to have) laws regulating the length of hair that men can have, massively punishing littering, and other things that it feels are not conducive of good order.
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How to go from deism to your particular religion in eight easy steps

As I wrote in an earlier post on deism, theism and atheism, genuine deists are rarely to be found these days. Deism requires people to not affiliate themselves with any particular manifestation of religion. While sophisticated religious apologists these days will often use deistic arguments because they are the most intellectually defensible, these people are also usually affiliated with this or that particular religion and thus have to somehow make the transition from deism to theism.
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The coming of age of the atheist movement

(This is the text of the talk that I gave to the Sunday Assembly yesterday. These Assemblies are monthly gatherings of generally secular people who meet for fellowship and to engage in activities to further social good.)

When Mark passed on the invitation to me to be the speaker at this second anniversary of the Sunday Assembly, I was honored, just as I was to be asked to speak at the inaugural event. But I was also surprised that two years had passed by so fast! The Sunday Assembly has reached the toddler stage in just the blink of an eye and has reached the stage of throwing things around.

That sense of the growth and evolution of the Sunday Assembly is what made me think about what I would talk about and why I chose ‘the coming of age of the atheist movement’ as my theme for today’s (dare I say it?) sermon. As a former ordained lay minister in the Methodist church I am used to giving long sermons but don’t worry, I will not subject you to the half-hour or more diatribes that are common in that church.
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