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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Curious views on astrology

Usually what we see in the news are stories about how local communities are riddled with superstitions and oppose efforts to combat popular form of it. Hence I was intrigued by this story about the opposition to a woman who wanted to teach a course on astrology in the town of Canyonville, Oregon. It turns out that there is a local ordinance dating back to 1982 that “prohibits fortunetelling, astrology, phrenology, palmistry, clairvoyance, mesmerism and spiritualism”.
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Thin versus thick theism

When writing about religion, I encounter a problem in describing the various forms of it. One form consists of that favored by theologians and sophisticated religious apologists who move in academic circles where they encounter deep critiques of religion. They usually speak in abstract terms about god, as a first cause, a prime mover, and so on. They do not anthropomorphize god by ascribing human passions and qualities to their deity. The second type of description is by those who see god as much like a human except that their deity also possesses superhuman attributes and is perfect in every way. Their deity intervenes in the world in response to prayers and can override the laws of nature in order to do so.
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