This is our archive of news items tagged Atheism.

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‘Satanic’ Craigslist killer; The prophecies behind Syria conflict

Also inside: Why do Newsweek’s new owners try to hide their ties to a controversial ‘Christian’ preacher? Is this a good television moment for atheists? Plus: In Iran, not wearing the ‘proper’ veil can get a woman arrested by the country’s religious police. Yes. Religious police.

May be updated throughout the day…

Miranda Barbour, a 19-year-old woman who told a reporter she has murdered upward of 22 people in several states, was in a Pennsylvania court yesterday for a pre-trial hearing.

She and her husband, Elytte Barbour, 22, are accused of killing 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara, who police say responded to a “companionship” ad placed by Miranda Barbour on Craigslist.

She is accused of repeatedly stabbing LaFerrara while her husband, who had been hiding on the backseat floor under a blanket, restrained him with a piece of television cable around the neck.

In a second jailhouse interview Barbour, referred to in the media as the “Craigslist killer,” says that other men also responded to her ad but escaped death when they failed to show up. But she also said she has murdered “some people” locally — a claim local police say is hard to believe since there aren’t that many missing person cases, and no other evidence has been found.

The woman has also claimed that at the age of 13 she joined a Satanic cult. In response The Church of Satan released a statement on what they say is Miranda Barbour’s claimed involvement in their church, saying it has no record whatsoever of any contact with Miranda and her husband.

Miranda’s father says his daughter is the most manipulative person he knows and is a liar. Ashley Dean, her sister, concurs. She told Pennsylvania newspaper The Daily Item that Miranda is using her fascination with television serial killer “Dexter” to embellish her own story.

“She is lying,” Ashley Dean said of her sister, Miranda Barbour. “She is a master at lying. She takes a lot of truths and puts the lie in the middle so when people talk to her they see all these truths and then they believe the lie.

A prison guard who supervised the initial visit of Daily Item reporter Francis Scarcella says details related to Barbour’s claim of having killed “under 100 people” made her sick to her stomach.

Law enforcement agents have found no evidence to support Barbour’s claims.

At Tuesday’s hearing Judge Charles H. Saylor deferred ruling on a defense motion to throw out the mitigating circumstances that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty if she’s convicted of murdering LaFerrara.

Would you be surprised to learn that the conflict in Syria was all foretold in 7th Century prophecies?

For Muslims the hadith, the collected sayings of prophet Muhammad and his companions, are the most important sources of authority in Islam after the Quran itself. These sayings include accounts which refer to the confrontation of two huge Islamic armies in Syria, a great battle near Damascus, and intervention from the north and west of the country.

After Mohammad died, in 632, Islam split into Sunni and Shi’ite sects during a war over the succession of the faith’s leadership.

In the minds of many Westerners, Shiite became synonymous with radical Islam after the 1979 Revolution in Iran. In reality, there are extremist strains among both Shiites and Sunnis, which do not necessarily represent the views of mainstream Muslims.
Muhammad’s death precipitated Sunni-Shia rift

Reuters notes that Shi’ites, who represent about 10% of the Muslim population,

are drawn to the war because they believe it paves the way for the return of Imam Mahdi – a descendent of the Prophet who vanished 1,000 years ago and who will re-emerge at a time of war to establish global Islamic rule before the end of the world.

In August 2013, IBT Media bought Newsweek. At the time, Christianity Today and Buzzfeed pointed out that IBT has links to “the Community,” a Christian sect led by a charismatic — and controversial — Korean pastor named David Jang.

Now Mother Jones wants to know why Newsweek’s owners are so anxious to hide their ties to Jang.

Ben Dooley’s report is the result of a multi-year investigation.

Among other thing, Dooley point out that Jang sees Community-affiliated media organizations as an essential part of his mission to build the kingdom of God on Earth.

David Jang Newsweek

In case you hadn’t noticed, this is a “relatively good moment for atheism and skepticism on the small screen,” says Alyssa Rosenberg, who writes on culture and politics for the Washington Post.

Beard-cutting-cult leader Sam Mullet is challenging his hate-crimes conviction that netted him a 15-year prison sentence for orchestrating a series of beard-chopping attacks on other Amish he disagreed with.

In Iran, a volunteer citizens’ militia, the Basij, together with what are called the “guidance” police, patrol the streets to monitor whether people are properly observing Islam’s many do’s and don’ts.

The experiences of a friend, who was pulled off the street and held at a police office for not wearing a proper veil, Hossein Fatemi — an award-winning Iranian documentary photographer who splits his time among Afghanistan, Iran and the United States — to put together this art project.

Why Muslim women wear the veil

By the way, did you know that religious police can be found in nearly one-in-ten countries?

countries with religious police

As of 2012, at least 17 nations (9% worldwide) have police that enforce religious norms, according to a new Pew Research analysis of 2012 data.

Religion News Blog brings you expert-selected, hand-picked religion news articles with a focus (though not always exclusively so) on cults, religious sects, world religions, and related issues (think anything from alleged brainwashing to human right issues, and from abusive churches to offbeat news)

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Third temple? * Church for Atheists * LGBT Rights and Religion

bullet One week after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down key decisions pertaining to same-sex marriage, released a study that shows how much religious groups have shifted toward supporting LGBTQ rights since 2003.

bullet Something else I picked up from the Barna Group website: 59% of 18-29 year olds with a Christian background are no longer going to church after previous attending regularly.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they have turned their back on God — but rather on the church. Big difference.

bullet And then there are churches where even God doesn’t attend.

I’m sure that includes lots of so-called ‘Christian’ churches.

bullet Incidentally, most atheists don’t hate God.

“It’s kind of hard to hate something that you don’t believe in. It’s like us hating Moby Dick,” says Red McCall, president of Oklahoma Atheists.

William Lane Craig is “the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.”
– Source: Sam Harris

bullet Check out Craig’s website, Reasonable Faith.

Not clear on the term apologist? Get up to speed here.

bullet Last Saturday members of the Council of Ex-Muslims in France met to launch their group publicly and discuss their mission: to promote liberty and equality for all people, regardless of their faith.

bullet Does meditation work as promised? Is its originally intended effect — the reduction of suffering — empirically demonstrable?

bullet Seventy to eighty per cent of people with a mental health problem in developing countries receive either no treatment at all, or treatments which have not been shown to be effective, such as those provided by traditional healers.

bullet Israel’s government has approved a draft law that would gradually abolish a system that exempts ultra-Orthodox Jewish students from compulsory military service. The system has been in place since the foundation of the State of Israel, in 1948.

bullet Speaking of Israel: For hundreds of millions of people all over the world, the end came a little closer last week.

That’s because a member of the Israeli cabinet has called for the construction of the Third Temple in Jerusalem on Temple Mount.

Hitchens Brothers Agree To Disagree Over God

Since Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer in June, he has received thousands of letters and e-mails, some from believers asserting that he’s getting what he deserves, more from people saying they’re praying for his recovery. Hitchens says he has been overwhelmed by the outpouring. But he is annoyed that some writers hope he’ll have a last-minute conversion to Christianity.

Under no persuasion could I be made to believe that a human sacrifice several thousand years ago vicariously redeems me from sin,” he says. “Nothing could persuade me that that was true — or moral, by the way. It’s white noise to me.”

His brother, Peter, is equally blunt: “There is actually no absolute right or wrong if there is no God,” he says.

Peter once shared his older brother’s views; he burned his Bible when he was a teenager in boarding school. But as he chronicled in his book, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith — which he wrote as a response to his brother’s anti-religious book — he felt drawn back to his Anglican faith starting in his late 20s.

He says his work as a journalist in Somalia and the former Soviet Union convinced him that civilization without religious morality devolves into brutality. Moral behavior requires more than higher reasoning, he says; it requires God. [Read more...]

Atheist burns Koran and Bible

A lawyer who videoed himself smoking what appeared to be joints made with pages from the Bible and the Koran expects to lose his job at a Queensland university.

In the video, posted on YouTube, Queensland University of Technology staffer Alex Stewart compares cigarettes made with pages from the two holy texts.

In the clip, titled “Bible or Koran – which burns best?“, the professed atheist says burning religious books is no big deal and people need to get over it.

But the Queensland University of Technology, which employs Mr Stewart, is not impressed and has demanded he explain himself.

“QUT is tolerant of all religions and does not condone damage to any religious artefacts,” QUT registrar Dr Carol Dickenson said in a statement. [Read more...]

Atheists ‘just as ethical as churchgoers’ research shows

Atheism Atheists are just as ethical and have as strong a moral compass as churchgoers, new research shows.

People who have no religion know right from wrong just as well as regular worshippers, according to the study.

The team behind the research found that most religions were similar and had a moral code which helped to organise society.

But people who did not have a religious background still appeared to have intuitive judgments of right and wrong in common with believers, according to the findings, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. [Read more...]