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Scientists Anonymous

Nov 6th, 2010 | By Allen Esterson

I recently chanced upon Scientists Anonymous: Great Stories of Women in Science (2005), by Patricia Fara, Senior Tutor and Director of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Clare College, Cambridge. Aside from her several popular books on science, Dr Fara is relatively well-known in the UK for her contributions to Melvyn Bragg’s BBC Radio 4 series “In Our Time”, on which she has featured on seven occasions in the years 2008-2010. Scientists Anonymous is published in the series Wizard Books (the children’s imprint of Icon Books), and is designed to be read by teenage schoolchildren. This to some extent dictates the style the author has chosen, and she succeeds in making it a very readable book.

As the title … Read the rest

The Islamic regime of Iran plans to execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani immediately‏

Nov 1st, 2010 | By International Committee against Stoning
According to news received by the International Committee against Stoning and International Commitee against Execution on 1 November 2010, the authorities in Tehran have given the go ahead to Tabriz prison for the execution of Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. It has been reported that she is to be executed this Wednesday 3 November.   We had previously reported that the casefile regarding the murder case of Ms Ashtiani’s husband had been seized from her lawyer’s office, Houtan Kian, and found missing from the prosecutor’s Oskoo branch office so as to stitch Ms Ashtiani up with trumped up murder charges. Ms Ashtiani’s son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, and her lawyer, Houtan Kian, have warned of the regime’s plan to do so on… Read the rest

The overlap between agnosticism and atheism

Oct 26th, 2010 | By John Shook

From John R. Shook, The God Debates: a 21st Century Guide for Atheists and Believers (and Everyone in Between). (pp 16-18) Wiley-Blackwell 2010. Published by permission.

Nonbelievers who reject traditional theistic Christianity have many options for positive worldviews. Besides other nontheistic religions, there are many kinds of pantheisms, spiritualisms, and mysticisms, along with varieties of humanism and naturalism. Forming a positive worldview is hard enough; selecting a label for oneself from a limited menu is even harder. Demographers polling people in America and around the world consistently find that few nonbelievers prefer the label of “atheist” for labeling their own position (Zuckerman 2007). This reluctance probably has more to do with the perceived meaning of atheism rather than … Read the rest

Larry King: Now why don’t you interview Mina Ahadi and Sajjad Ghaderzadeh?‏

Sep 24th, 2010 | By Mina Ahadi and Maryam Namazie
Larry King’s overly cordial interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad failed to press the head of a repressive Islamic Republic of Iran on many issues raised, including on the Iran stoning case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.   When asked about the stoning case, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replied: ‘This lady’s case has not been completely examined yet. No verdict has been issued yet. She is accused of being — of murdering her husband. And I don’t think in the world if someone is accused of murdering their husband, people would pour on the streets and rally in support of her.’ Without correcting the facts on the case, King then went on to say: ‘If they were going to stone her, they would.’ Ahmadinejad then said:… Read the rest

Idea and Violence

Sep 18th, 2010 | By Shaker B. Srinivasan

The insistence, if only implicitly, on a choiceless singularity of human identity not only diminishes us all, it also makes the world much more flammable. The alternative to the divisiveness of one pre-eminent categorization is not any unreal claim that we are all much the same. Rather, the main hope of harmony in our troubled world lies in the plurality of our identities, which cut across each other and work against sharp divisions around one single hardened line of vehement division that allegedly cannot be resisted. Our shared humanity gets savagely challenged when our differences are narrowed into one devised system of uniquely powerful categorization.

— Amartya Sen. What Clash of Civilizations? Why religious identity isn’t destiny. Slate, March

Read the rest

Gagging the Mississippi

Sep 18th, 2010 | By PZ Myers

The Mississippi is a mess. I live in the agricultural, rural upper midwest, and one of the nasty surprises lurking beneath the rich green fields is that the rivers are ugly stews of fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides from agricultural runoff. We have data that it hurts people, too: premature births and birth defects show seasonal fluctuations that peak for children conceived in the spring and summer, when the chemicals are being sprayed into the air and are dribbling into the streams. The villains are agribusiness and overproduction and the corn ethanol boondoggle and horrors like the fecal lakes associated with swine farms. Louisiana’s environmental problems are partly the product of Minnesota’s toxic largesse.

It needs to be known. The … Read the rest

Malawi: Children Commit Suicide After Prayers

Sep 16th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

Ordinarily, not much is heard about Malawi -a country that was ruled for so many years by the late dictator, Kamuzu Banda. Apart from the recent case of a gay couple convicted and later pardoned by President Mutharika who is also the current Chair of the African Union, Malawi is hardly in the news.

But that does not mean that all is well with this country. No, all is not well with ‘Nyasaland’. Malawi like many other African countries is trapped in the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance, superstition and religious fanaticism. Independence has not brought this nation emergence and prosperity. Education has not resulted in emancipation, civilization and enlightenment. The different religious groups in the country are living together … Read the rest

A look into the Psychology of Dictators

Sep 15th, 2010 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

The behaviour of dictators like Ahmadinejad, Ghadafi, Idi Amin etc., is not solely a funny subject for people, a witty personage for media, and a caricature for satirists; such behaviour has the potential of catastrophes for a whole nation. They represent an Islamic, authoritarian or even totalitarian regime which is morally bankrupt and thus can commit any wrongdoing.
While many psychopaths are incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals and penal institutions, it has been recognised that a few of them were clever enough to enter the history of mankind, creating catastrophes. All these misfits need to rule is an insane ideology or belief system through which they surround themselves with mad people, devoted followers and blind killers who are equally clueless about … Read the rest

An open letter to Facebook founder on Namazie and Ahadi

Sep 14th, 2010 | By Maryam Namazie

Mr Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook Headquarters
156 University Avenue
Palo Alto
California 94301-1605

Dear Mr Zuckerberg,

I am writing to ask that you reinstate the Facebook accounts of Maryam Namazie and Mina Ahadi as a matter of urgency. Their accounts were disabled without warning on Monday 13 September 2010. As well as reinstating these accounts, we ask that an explanation is provided as to why they were disabled.

Maryam Namazie and Mina Ahadi are well known human rights campaigners who have worked globally to end the barbaric practice of stoning, as well as other human rights abuses. Both have been awarded Secularist of the Year by the National Secular Society (UK) and named in the top 45 ‘women of the year’ … Read the rest

God, Goodness and Morality

Sep 13th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

An opening address delivered by Leo Igwe at the 2nd Annual conference of the Free Society Institute of South Africa, co-hosted  by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Date: September 11 2010 Venue Cape Milner Hotel, Cape Town South Africa

Once again the FSI has demonstrated its commitment to the mission of promoting free thought and free speech in South Africa. Last year we all met in this hall for the first conference of this Institute co-hosted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union. And I must say that last year’s event remains one of the best humanist programs I have attended in Africa. I was deeply impressed by the quality of the presentations, debates, and discussions. I was inspired … Read the rest

Why having chronic illness hasn’t turned me to god

Sep 9th, 2010 | By Amy Clare

As an atheist, I am often told that I shouldn’t criticise religion, as it offers comfort to people in difficult situations. When you suffer every day, the faithful tell me, you need the hope and meaning that religion gives you – the implication of course being that atheism is a luxury, something that only privileged, comfortable, healthy, able-bodied people can indulge in.

These same people are often surprised to learn that I have a debilitating chronic medical condition, and in fact I do suffer every day. And yet, I have still not turned to god. I still do not believe in an afterlife, despite the fact that in my Earthly life, I will probably never feel truly healthy or ‘normal’ … Read the rest

The Convenience Marriage of Fundamentalism and Perversion

Sep 8th, 2010 | By Lauryn Oates

In a 2003 essay for Daedalus, Christopher Hitchens wrote that, “religious absolutism makes a good match with tribal feelings and with sexual repression—two of the base ingredients of the fascistic style.”

There’s no doubt that repressed sexuality is a feature of most religions, and the cause of many an unhappy union made under god’s banner. But less often discussed is religion’s facilitative role to sexual perversions. The more fundamentalist the dogma, the sicker the stuff taking place in between the sheets.

Take the bacha baz of Afghanistan for instance. The bacha baz are men who take boys as lovers, or more accurately, as repeated rape victims. Over the years I’ve worked in Afghanistan, there has always been hushed … Read the rest

Open letter to the BBC

Sep 8th, 2010 | By Maryam Namazie
BBC Sunday Live invited me to join its debate on whether ‘it is right to condemn Iran for stoning’ on 5 September 2010 via webcam. During the debate, the programme allowed only two interventions via webcam (that of Suhaib Hassan of the Islamic Sharia Council and Mohammad Morandi of Tehran University – both of whom were in support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s stoning and/or execution). I (who had presumably been invited to defend Ms Ashtiani and oppose stoning in the debate) was never given the opportunity to speak.   To the BBC’s Sunday Live Programme   I am writing to ask that you rectify gross inaccuracies regarding Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case and that of stoning in Iran in your upcoming programme.   Presenter… Read the rest

Lose Your Illusion: Essays by Joumana Haddad

Sep 5th, 2010 | By Max Dunbar

Here are a few statistics you may or may not be familiar with. The 2002 Arab Human Development Report estimated that the Arab world translates around 330 books annually, one fifth of the number translated by Greece. Taking the long view, the authors also estimated that the Arab world had translated 100,000 books since the Caliph Ma’mun in the ninth century. This is just under the average number translated by Spain in a year. How many books are actually produced? We don’t really know. While they admitted that there were ‘no reliable figures’, the researchers indicated that ‘many indicators suggest a severe shortage of writing; a large share of the market consists of religious books and educational publications that are … Read the rest

Secular Nepal – Challenges Ahead

Sep 1st, 2010 | By Ravi Dhungel

Nepal is the youngest secular country in the world. With the interim constitution moving farther away from the nitty-gritty of constitution making, the so-called secular Nepal lingers farther away on the horizon. The politicians are busy manifesting the new but failed doctrine in the name of national consensus to make the national government, merely for the sake of power. Paradoxically, the pro-Hindu faction keeps on demonstrating and chanting against the abolition of the Hindu kingdom, the religious icon of Nepal.  There are hundreds of ethnic groups based on particular religions. Ethnic diversity prevails along with the geographic diversity of Nepal. The society is inevitably polarizing in terms of caste, region and religion.  Is this the notion of the new secular … Read the rest

To Ban or Not to Ban? The Burqa, Religious Identity, and Politics

Aug 31st, 2010 | By Timothy Rowe

A great deal of confusion surrounds the burqa and the issue of its being worn in Western countries. A traditional religious garment, the burqa covers a woman’s face and body so completely that only a small slit for the eyes remains to allow the sight of the person behind it.[1] Earlier in the year French legislators passed a vote deploring the apparel, and the lower house recently passed a bill 335-1 which would see it made illegal to wear in public, a vote quickly condemned by Amnesty International as threatening to freedom of expression and religion. While the bill will move to the Senate later in the year, should France actually enact a ban it would not stand out … Read the rest

I will continue to speak out for justice and human rights

Aug 24th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

The recent attack on my family which led to my father’s loss of one eye was an unfortunate development. It was yet another attempt to intimidate us and undermine our campaign for justice.

 To any intelligent observer of the trends in Nigeria, this incident would not have come as a surprise. Because Nigeria has practically been taken over by thugs, hoodlums, kidnappers and bandits.

Nigeria is held hostage by forces of dark age and barbarism. Anything that appears to be civil or enlightened about Nigeria is mainly on the surface. Since independence Nigeria has been descending gradually into anomie, anarchy and criminality. Nigeria has derailed and deteriorated due to misrule, bad governance, collective irresponsibility and insensitivity, lack of vision and … Read the rest

“They think they can do anything to women”

Aug 17th, 2010 | By Maryam Namazie
Join 28 August action of 100 cities against stoning   Hello   Thanks so much for your support of the campaign to save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from death by stoning and execution. The public outcry is what has kept her alive so far. When her 22 year old son Sajjad first wrote an open letter asking people everywhere to intervene there was no legal recourse left and she was to face imminent death by stoning for ‘adultery.’   In another letter written a few days ago, Sajjad reiterates Ashtiani’s innocence and says: ‘What sort of justice is this?’ (   The Islamic regime in Iran is doing everything it can to kill Ashtiani and push back the international campaign. The regime has… Read the rest

A violent attack on Leo Igwe’s family

Aug 12th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

Around midnight on Wednesday August  4 2010,two gunmen invaded my family house in Mbaise in Imo state in Southern Nigeria. They shot twice in the air and my mother fainted. They later descended on my aging father and started beating him. They blindfolded him with a piece of cloth and hit him several times with stones.

He later fainted and the hoodlums ransacked the whole house and made away with whatever they found valuable. My father  bled from the right eye, nose and mouth. He had bruises on his head, hands, legs and chest. After the attack, some neighbours came and rushed him to a nearby hospital. From there, I moved him to an eye hospital in Lagos where the … Read the rest

The Future is Female

Aug 1st, 2010 | By Max Dunbar

‘Some folks don’t believe there is pious niggers, Shelby,’ said Haley, with a candid flourish of his hand, ‘but I do. I had a fellow, now, in this yer last lot I took to Orleans – ‘twas good as a meetin’ now, really; to hear that critter pray; and he was quite gentle and quiet like. He fetched me a good sum, too, for I bought him cheap off a man that was ‘bliged to sell out; so I realised six hundred on him. Yes, I consider religion a valeyable thing in a nigger, when it’s the genuine article, and no mistake.’

  •  Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Post 9/11, everyone wanted to have something to say about Islam. Governments … Read the rest