How Facebook enabled Buddhist vigilante violence in Sri Lanka

The New York Times has a daily podcast where they discuss with their reporters a single story that they covered. On Wednesday, May 16 they had an episode titled When Facebook Rumors Incite Real Violence about how rumors on Facebook led to deadly violence in Sri Lanka. (Scroll down to find it.) The story provides yet another example of how religious majorities tend to be intolerant and that Buddhists, despite their reputation of being a ‘peaceful’ religion, are no less susceptible to violence than Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims. There is no religion that cannot be turned into a vehicle for intolerance and violence when they acquire the means to be so.
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Great moments in evangelical hypocrisy

One of the amusing things to observe is how so many leading lights in the evangelical Christian movement have abandoned all pretense of upholding moral standards in their efforts to defend their support of Donald Trump. That support was always highly hypocritical even at the best of times, excusing vicious assaults on the poor and the LGBT community and other marginalized groups as long as the politician opposed abortion and spouted pieties about their god and family values. But now even that fig leaf is gone and they have been revealed to be absolutely shameless in their abandonment of even the rhetoric of morality.
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Hell under siege in the film Come Sunday (2018)

Hell has been getting bad press in recent times. How can a place of eternal damnation where people are supposed to be tortured forever possibly get worse press, you ask? The answer is that people are finding it hard to believe in it and have started thinking that it does not exist at all. If you are trying to frighten someone, the worst thing that can happen to you is for people to stop believing you exist, as happens with little children and monsters. When a mainstream publication like Time has on its cover the question What if there’s no hell?, you know you have a problem. And it gets worse. Recently even pope Francis has said that atheists can go to heaven. True, he seemed to suggest that one had to be good also but the fact that one did not have to accept Jesus to get into heaven was a major step away from orthodoxy. There was even a disputed interview where he seemed to suggest that there was no hell.
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The domino effect for evangelicals

As a lapsed religious believer, I find interesting the stories of how other people lost their faith. I was a very devout Christian, an ordained lay preacher in the Methodist Church back in Sri Lanka, but it was a progressive liberal church and by no means fundamentalist. It went a long way to accommodating scientific beliefs, which is perhaps why it took me so long to give up belief in the idea of gods.
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You can’t repair churches with public funds in New Jersey

We have become used to religious institutions finding ways to get public funding for their purposes, the main one being tax exemptions for their income and property but also in other ways such as setting up charter schools that can get taxpayer money. Politicians know that there is little to lose in pandering to religion and one of the ways is to siphon money in their direction. But some churches in New Jersey went as far as to use public funds to repair their churches. What was astonishing was that a lower court had allowed the practice. But today the New Jersey supreme court ruled unanimously that such spending was unconstitutional.
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The strange saga of the Rajneeshees

India seems to breed a constant stream of so-called ‘holy men’. These are people who preach some kind of religious mish-mash that followers find appealing enough to give them lots of money. They are not unlike the pastors of the megachurches in the US in fleecing the believers. The main difference is that these Indian mystics tend to run residential programs at places called ashrams where people live 24/7 while the megachurch followers live in their own homes.
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Thomas Jefferson on the separation of church and state

Via reader Greg, I read this article by Lathan Watts who’s bio states that he is “director of community relations for First Liberty Institute, a nationwide religious liberty law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty for all.” That alone set off alarm bells in my mind because the phrase ‘religious liberty’ is now the sword brandished by those who would seek to have Christianity be everywhere in the public square. I have a similar reaction when an organization has ‘family’ or ‘values’ in its name, because that is a pretty good indicator that it is a bigoted right-wing group.
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David Silverman fired as head of American Atheists

[UPDATE: Two commenters below Bridget Wolfe and Reginald Selkirk have given links to a Buzzfeed article about the background to Silverman’s firing.]

I just received the following email from AA:

Last night, the American Atheists Board of Directors voted to terminate David Silverman as president of American Atheists.

Board Chair Neal Cary and Vice President Kathleen Johnson will continue to fulfill the duties of the President while National Program Director Nick Fish oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization.
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