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Plato’s Nephew

Nov 1st, 2007 | By R. Joseph Hoffmann

Skepticism is a funny thing, even among the Greeks – especially among the Greeks. The “original” skepticism would have been completely palatable to modern religionists, because it challenged pre-Socratic efforts to attain a true picture of the world and stoic claims to have the map to true knowledge. To the early practitioners of skepticism Thales’ notions just didn’t hold water, and if Heraclites was right today, he might well be wrong tomorrow. “‘What I may think after dinner is one thing,’ returns Mr. Jobling, ‘my dear Guppy, and what I think before dinner is quite another thing.’” A little healthy skepticism never hurt anyone, except those with fixed and final positions, those who claim to possess the whole and unvarnished … Read the rest

About Intercessory Prayer

Oct 30th, 2007 | By Gil Gaudia, Ph.D.

In 1748 the great Scottish philosopher, David Hume, first published his “lemon test” concerning miracles. It goes like this: “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be even more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish…” Hume concludes his point by saying:

When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision,

Read the rest

The Echoes of the Bell

Oct 28th, 2007 | By Ravi Dhungel

Every morning, the bell rings. It’s not my cell-phone alarm nor the siren broadcast by big mansions for the periodical shifting of laborers. The bell rings everyday and I am hearing it for the last twenty-eight years (apart from a few odd days). It’s evident that millions of Hindus throughout the world hear these bell-echoes every day in the early morning. The frequency of this bell must have been raised exponentially these days as the Hindu’s greatest festival Dashain has finished recently.

Being a Hindu by birth and a secular humanist by thought, I am always at a cross-roads in shaping myself into the proper track with regard to atheism and theism. The trail is muddy and complicated, but I … Read the rest

A plan? A man? The Quran

Oct 26th, 2007 | By Adrian Reddy


A previous article [1] suggested that a suitable response to the recent influx of Islamic ideas would be to apply typically Western methods of enquiry to Islam itself. The article presented, as an example, a critical discussion of the inheritance laws as set out in the Quran and concluded that the laws were ineptly specified, thereby providing evidence that the Quran was composed by a fallible human mind. This conclusion is in direct and irreconcilable conflict with the central Islamic assertion that the Quran was composed in its entirety by an almighty, all-knowing deity: the Biblical God.

This article continues in the same vein, but discusses not the details within the Quran, but the accounts of its creation as … Read the rest

Those who Lived Under ‘Islamo-fascism’

Oct 24th, 2007 | By Marieme Hélie-Lucas

Dear friends in WIB [Women in Black],

In response to the mail alerting us about this event against ‘Islamo
fascism’ led by conservative forces, I think there is a need for
clarification from us, who lived under ‘Islamo fascism’:

First of all, let me say that the term ‘Islamo fascism’ was initially
coined by Algerian people struggling for democracy, against armed
fundamentalist forces decimating people in our country, then later operating
in Europe, where a number of us had taken refuge.

For us, it has never been equated to Islam, but it points at fundamentalists
only: i.e. at political forces working under the cover of religion in order
to gain political power and to impose a theocracy (The Law – … Read the rest

Mina Ahadi Named Secularist of the Year

Oct 21st, 2007 | By Terry Sanderson

Richard Dawkins says that it is “the awakening of women” that will solve the problem of “the worldwide menace of Islamic terrorism and oppression”.

His remarks came while praising the winner of this year’s “Secularist of the Year” award from the National Secular Society. The £5,000 prize went to Mina Ahadi, an Iranian woman who was forced to flee her native country after leading a campaign against the compulsory veiling of women. Because of her resistance to the clerical regime, her husband and four of her colleagues were executed, and she only narrowly escaped the same fate.

She now lives in Germany and has founded the Committee of Ex-Muslims, a movement that is rapidly spreading across Europe. She has also … Read the rest

The Cliché That Won’t Die

Oct 19th, 2007 | By Max Dunbar

I recently enjoyed the new Richard Dawkins series on Britain’s Channel 4, in which the scientist explores the world of alternative therapies – therapies which have few health benefits but are nevertheless funded by public money. Dawkins, of course, is known for his criticism of religious faith – not just religious states, wars, or terrorism, but the texts and the faith itself.

Here are some reactions to Dawkins’s viewpoint.

Dawkins is an unashamed proselytiser. (Madeleine Bunting)

What is arguably more interesting about Dawkins’s TV work is the sense in which his public advocacy of atheism is coming to look more and more like media-savvy forms of contemporary religion, particularly evangelicalism. (Gordon Lynch)

And yet, Dawkins is as reluctant as any

Read the rest

What Label for People Like Us?

Oct 10th, 2007 | By Paul Kurtz

I note with interest that Margaret Downey organized a blockbuster atheist conference in the Washington, D.C. area, to which she brought many of the “new atheists.” We congratulate her on her energy. However, may I agree with Sam Harris who states that in accepting the label of “atheist” that “we are consenting to be viewed as a cranky sub-culture… a marginal interest group that meets in hotel ballrooms.”

May I first compliment Sam (as the newest kid on the block) for his two fine books and his eloquent voice now being heard on the national scene. May I then disagree with his subsequent “seditious proposal” that we should not call ourselves “secularists,” “humanists,” “secular humanists,” “naturalists,” “skeptics,” etc. “We should … Read the rest

The New Humanist Manifesto

Oct 3rd, 2007 | By R. Joseph Hoffmann

The New Humanist Manifesto

1. There are lots and lots of atheists and agnostics and people who really don’t know really what to think, or why.

2. We need to build a movement just for them.

3. And a big table.

4. Atheists and agnostics really need to discover the wisdom of the Buddha…

5. And Rainbow Love.

6. The problem with the Old Humanism is that it is Old.

7. The New Humanism is New. This is fundamental.

8. In the new humanism, everything will be tentative. For example, if someone asks us, “What do you stand for?” we must not take offense. We must say: “Why is that important to you?”

9. Similarly, if an Anti-New Humanist attacks … Read the rest

Open Letter to the UN Secretary-General

Sep 24th, 2007 | By Akbar Ganji

September 18, 2007

To His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations,

The people of Iran are experiencing difficult times both internationally and domestically. Internationally, they face the threat of a military attack from the US and the imposition of extensive sanctions by the UN Security Council. Domestically, a despotic state has – through constant and organized repression – imprisoned them in a life and death situation.

Far from helping the development of democracy, US policy over the past 50 years has consistently been to the detriment of the proponents of freedom and democracy in Iran. The 1953 coup against the nationalist government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq and the unwavering support for the despotic regime of the Shah, … Read the rest

Letter to a Friend: On Islamic Fundamentalism

Sep 7th, 2007 | By Daphne Patai

September 11, 2006 8 p.m.

Today is September 11th and I suppose every single person in this country knows what they were doing on this date five years ago. I recall the feeling of unreality I had as I watched a small TV screen here at home repeatedly play tiny images of two towers collapsing. And then, in the immediate aftermath, do you remember how many in this country – especially among intellectuals and academics – wanted to discuss what “we” had done to “deserve” this? Those were hard days, and in many respects the years since then have been harder still, for although I had by then already spent decades in the strange ideological climate of American academic life, … Read the rest

Murder in Amsterdam

Sep 4th, 2007 | By Max Dunbar

My father lived in Amsterdam for five years. Every time I went over to see him I was asked by friends if I was intending to smoke large amounts of dope and/or have sex with large amounts of prostitutes. Amsterdam’s image is of a party town. English stag parties descend on the city every weekend to take advantage of a supposed liberalism which many of them would abhor if it were introduced in their home country.

The image is misleading, though. The red light is confined to a few areas of the city. People work hard in the Dam. My father wrote, ‘For sure, they don’t like freeloaders. It’s pump or drown. Do what you want otherwise, but take your … Read the rest

Open Letter to the Home Office

Sep 1st, 2007 | By IRQO

Open letter to the Home Office,

The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner
5th Floor, Counting House, 53 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2QN England

Telephone: 020 7211 1500
Fax: 020 7211 1553


Copies to the UK media and Mr Richard Caborn,

MP for Sheffield Central cabornr@parliament.uk

Re: Pegah Emam Bakhsh

21 August 2007

Pegah is a young Iranian woman who faces deportation from the UK. She applied for asylum in the UK fearing her life in Iran as a lesbian. She was refused asylum by the British authorities. Last week she was detained without warning and sent to Yarlswood for deportation on 16th August. At the very last minute she was granted stay until August 27th so her MP … Read the rest

The Islamic Rules of Inheritance in the Quran

Sep 1st, 2007 | By Adrian Reddy


Few people in the West can be unaware that the present period in our history is characterised by unprecedented access to Islamic ideas and attitudes. Such a state of affairs should be regarded not necessarily with trepidation, but as an opportunity to address such new concepts with of one of the West’s greatest assets: the spirit of analytical enquiry. This article discusses Islam but, in contrast to many books and articles covering this topical and controversial subject, it considers not whether Islam is good or bad, but whether Islam is true or false.

Muslims believe that, around the year 610 in what is now Saudi Arabia, Muhammad ibn Abdullah began to receive messages from the Biblical God and … Read the rest

When a Lesbian Says ‘We Are all Hezb’ Allah Now!’

Aug 24th, 2007 | By Azar Majedi

When my daughter’s friend told me a couple of weeks a go, that her socialist lesbian friend has a poster on her wall saying: “we are all Hezb’ Allah Now!” I said: “my God! [and I am an atheist] something has gone fundamentally wrong.”

I asked myself, what are they trying to do, mock socialists? Or, are they simply brainwashed? What is this world coming to?

This young woman has all the necessary ingredients for fighting against political Islam and Hezb’ Allah. First of all she is a woman. Just the fact of being a female is enough to make you a staunch enemy of a radically misogynist movement, unless you are brainwashed to do the opposite.

To add to … Read the rest

Twelve Iranian ‘Thugs’ Executed

Aug 16th, 2007 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

A new series of executions has started in Iran. On 22 July 2007, in the notorious Evin Prison, the Islamic authorities hanged in one day twelve “thugs” accused of homosexuality, drug smuggling, theft, and violation of Islamic morality.

Even if these executed twelve Iranians were thugs, they are the products of the 29- year policies of the Islamic regime.

The word “thug” in Iranian socio-economic terms would refer to a group of people who are socially and economically marginalised. Such “thugs” are mostly derived from poor classes, and they confront all unfair aspects of the society.

Because of the high rate of unemployment, poverty, widespread illiteracy, and a lack of welfare and a social protection system, they are direct victims … Read the rest

Review of The Islamist

Aug 15th, 2007 | By Max Dunbar

Ed Husain is a busy man. He is working on a PhD, and his book The Islamist has generated a huge amount of copy and follow-up work. Earlier this year, going home on the train after a tranche of interviews, he got a call from an old Muslim friend.

‘Salam Alaikum!’ I said. ‘How are you?’ My friend was in no mood for niceties. He was blunt and sharp as he warned me to stay away from a particular London mosque: ‘You won’t escape safely. Do you hear?’

I was perplexed. All week Muslim ‘community leaders’ had been rapping me on the knuckles for attacking, in my book, those who managed the mosque and its various octopus-like arms. ‘They’ve changed,

Read the rest

The Attack on Taslima Nasreen

Aug 10th, 2007 | By Rationalist International

Rationalist International expresses shock and deep concern about the attack on Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen today (August 9) by the radical political outfit Majlis Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM) at the Hyderabad Press Club. She was releasing the Telegu translation of her book “Shodd”. Taslima Nasreen is an Honorary Associate of Rationalist International.

MIM activists, led by three state Legislative Council members (MLAs), raised slogans against Taslima and flung bouquets and chairs at her and others attending the function. However, no injuries have been reported so far.

MIM leader Akhtar Khan, an MLA, said: “She is enemy of Islam, she is a black spot on Muslims.. We cannot bear anyone talking against Islam. She has written books against Islam. We will not tolerate … Read the rest

New Death Sentence on Journalists in Iran

Aug 7th, 2007 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

The Islamic Republic of Iranian’s execution wave has reached the media in Iran. On 16 July 2007, two Kurdish journalists, Mr. Adnan Hassanpour and Mr.Hiva Boutimar were sentenced to death by an Islamic tribunal in Marivan, a Kurdish city in the north-west Iran. They are supposed to be brought to the scaffold in the coming days. Judiciary spokesman, Mr. Ali Reza Jamshidi, confirmed that these two journalists have been sentenced to death, state media reported Tuesday, 31 0f July.

At a trial behind closed doors, the journalists were found guilty of “activities subverting national security, spying, and interviews for foreign news media including Voice of America”. These “accusations” were cited by the prosecution and, amazingly, confirmed by the journalists’ lawyer, … Read the rest

Einstein’s Wife: PBS Fails the Test of Integrity

Jul 31st, 2007 | By Allen Esterson

In July I had one of those good news/bad news days. First the good news. In response to the detailed complaint I had submitted in February 2007 to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about their promotion of the film “Einstein’s Wife”,[1] I received the following from Simon Melkman, ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs:

“Due to the breaches of the ABC’s Code of Practice which you have identified, the ABC will not broadcast ‘Einstein’s Wife’ again. In addition, the ATOM ‘Einstein’s Wife’ study guide has been removed from the ABC website.”

Now the bad news. On that same day I received from one of the Einstein specialists whose tendentiously edited interviews were included in the film the information that the US Public … Read the rest