Third Annual Salvation Army Sucks Post

Well maybe the don’t suck but their stances on human rights haven’t changed since my first post and so still don’t stand as a charity worth supporting. Here is the original article. Other than be staunchly religious their views on important issues are also archaic and don’t belong in civil society. As outlined below from their website:

  1. Abortion: When an unwanted pregnancy occurs, The Salvation Army counsels that the parents receive caring support for their emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs, and that the unborn child be carried to term.
  2. Euthanasia: The Salvation Army believes that euthanasia and assisted suicide are morally wrong.
  3. Gay rights: ‘The Salvation Army believes that God’s will for the expression of sexual intimacy is revealed in the Bible, and that living fully in accordance with biblical standards calls for chastity outside of heterosexual marriage and faithfulness within it.’ Under marriage the Salvation Army states: ‘The Salvation Army believes marriage is the covenanting together of one man and one woman for life in a union to the exclusion of all others.’

They sing the same tune on all important issues. Simply put the Salvation Army’s stance on anything is: ‘Its only right or wrong if the bible says so’. As such I won’t be dropping money again in their buckets again this year. Instead support any of these wonderful charities:

Doctors Without Borders       Amnesty International       Sick Kids Hospital         The Children’s Wish Foundation

or any on this list all do good work.

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Soaring Unbelief: What It Means for Our Future

In 1882 Nietzsche said ‘God Is Dead’. Some are now predicting the religions that worship God are soon to follow. The numbers are indeed indicative of this. Some go so far as to give an exact year when religions will no longer longer be the dominant in the world. If religion were to die or even just become marginalized this leads to many questions such as: What would replace religion, if anything? Would the problems that humanity currently faces disappear or simply change? And many more. It seems prudent to examine these questions.

Most census surveys support the idea that atheism and humanism is growing and religion is on the decline, especially so in the most affluent countries such as the United States and Canada, northern Europe (Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and The Netherlands), France, Germany, Japan and Australia amongst others. In 2011 the American Physical Society predicted religion will become extinct in nine countries.

However one has to wonder if the world even can let go of religion. Human beings have an intense existential void. Victor Frankl holocaust survivor, and father of the Logotherapy describes what he calls the existential vacuum:

 “the feeling of the total and ultimate meaningless of their lives.” (110) People who live with this existential crisis “lack the awareness of a meaning worth living for. They are haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness, a void within themselves…’” (110-111)

Human beings long for meaning. For we tend to fear the unknown, a leftover from our evolution. This fear keeps us from danger, even though it it also keeps us from adventure and learning. Psychology today has a nice introductory article about this. So is it even possible for us to give up on religion? We certainly can but a great deal more needs to happen before that is possible. If secularism is tied to affluence as Phil Zuckerman suggests then a religion free world involves bringing all countries to a high standard of living.  This, of course, would require major political, economic and social change worldwide. This is not impossible but certainly improbable for the foreseeable future.

What Would The World Look Like Without Religion?

Countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Japan are already virtually religion free. Using The United Nations HDI (Human Development Index) allows us to examine what life is like there.

Bear in mind the Human Development is defined by the United Nations as follows:

The concept of human development focuses on the ends rather than the means of development and progress. The real objective of development should be to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives. Though this may appear to be a simple truth, it is often overlooked as more immediate concerns are given precedence.

Human development denotes both the process of widening people’s choices and improving their well-being. The most critical dimensions of human development are: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. Additional concerns include social and political freedoms. The concept distinguishes between two sides of human development. One is the formation of human capabilities, such as improved health or knowledge. The other is the enjoyment of these acquired capabilities, for work or for leisure.

Thus the concept of human development is a holistic one putting people at the centre of all aspects of the development process.(source)

So what is life like in countries that are religion free or close to it?

  1. Norway:  Norway ranked number one again in 2012. A look at the chart shows it has been near the top for many years. According to polls Noway is 31 to 71% percent atheist/agnostic.  The average life expectancy is 81.3 years. The average annual income is over $48,000. Norway’s Gender Inequality Index also sets the example:

Norway has a GII value of 0.065, ranking it 5 out of 148 countries in the 2012 index. In Norway, 39.6 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and 95.6 percent of adult women have reached a secondary or higher level of education compared to 94.7 percent of their male counterparts. For every 100,000 live births, 7 women die from pregnancy related causes; and the adolescent fertility rate is 7.4 births per 1000 live births. Female participation in the labour market is 61.7 percent compared to 70.for men

  • Japan: Japan is approximately 62% non-religious/atheist and ranked 10 on the HDI rankings in 2012. The life expectancy in Japan is 83.6 years. Japan’s average income is $32,343.
  • Australia: Approximately 58% atheist/agnostic. Life expectancy is 82.0 years and average annual income of $32, 340. Australia has Universal Healthcare, high education, low crime rates and an impressive gender equality.
  • The Netherlands: Approximately 56-70% atheist/agnostic. Ranked4 on the HDI in 2012. Life expectancy is 80.8 years and average annual income is $32, 782. Health care is covered main by heavily regulated health-insurance and is ranked one of the best systems in the world (even better than countries with universal healthcare like Canada and Australia)
  • Germany: Germany is approximately 45-55% atheist/agnostic. In 2012 Germany ranked 5th on the HDI. Life expectancy is 80.6 years and the average annual income is $35,341. Healthcare is primarily government funded.

The above examination only explores a few countries and so in no way proves that life would be better in a religion free world. However it does support the idea that atheism/agnosticism is tied to affluence; the better off people are the less they need religion. So it stands to reason that the world will become more religion free as we become healthier and more secure worldwide.

In conclusion it is reasonable to assume that soaring unbelief is indeed very positive as it seems to be a result of increasing standards of living.  As humanists we support this trend and are excited to see what good things soaring unbelief will bring to humanity.

Sources:

  1. Magee, Brian (2012) The State of Religion: Declining Belief in God Worldwide     http://americanhumanist.org/HNN/details/2012-04-the-state-of-religion-declining-belief-in-god-worldw
  2. Elie A. Shneour (2012). The Ongoing Decline of Religion http://www.csicop.org/si/show/the_ongoing_decline_of_religion/
  3. Barber, Nigel (2012) Atheism to Defeat Religion By 2038 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nigel-barber/atheism-to-defeat-religion-by-2038_b_1565108.html
  4. http://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/MAR11/Event/137047%3C/a
  5. Barber, N. (2012). Why atheism will replace religion: The triumph of earthly pleasures over pie in the sky. http://www.amazon.com/Atheism-Will-Replace-Religion-ebook/dp/B00886ZSJ6/
  6. Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2004). Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  7.  Barber, N. (2011). A Cross-National test of the uncertainty hypothesis of religious belief Cross-Cultural Research, 45, 318-333.
  8. Kaufmann, E. (2010). Shall the religious inherit the earth? London: Profile books.
  9.  Zuckerman, P. (2008). Society without God: What the least religious nations can tell us about contentment. New York: New York University Press.
  10. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12811197
  11. http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/CY-VOID.html
  12. http://redcresearch.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/RED-C-press-release-Religion-and-Atheism-25-7-12.pdf
  13. http://hdr.undp.org/en/data/profiles/
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Brilliant ad campaign reflects a disheartening misogyny

Sample image from this really great ad campaign

Sample image from this really great ad campaign

On October 18th I came across this article and wondered ‘Is this 2013?’  The article was about a powerful ad campaign for UN Women. The images reflect the still rampant misogynistic attitudes in, well, pretty much everyone.  To be fair I examined closely how Google Autocomplete works.

According to the Google support page on the subject:

‘The search queries that you see as part of Autocomplete are a reflection of the search activity of all web users and the content of web pages indexed by Google.’

‘Autocomplete predictions are algorithmically determined based on a number of factors (including popularity of search terms)’

I wasn’t able to find what features other than popular search terms that Google uses to operate Autocomplete. However it seems that the autocomplete does, at least somewhat, reflect what people are searching for. Before jumping to conclusions though it is important to remember:

1. People could be searching for any reason. Even if they are typing in something as terrible as ‘women shouldn’t have rights’ they may not agree with this.

2. Google Autocomplete is by no means scientific research. Whether or not misogyny is a problem in a certain place or even worldwide can only be determined by proper research. Especially for topics as important as women’s rights.

On that note:

One of the best examinations of women’s rights worldwide is the United Nations Development Programme. It’s Women’s Empowerment programme has a really good statistical examination of gender equality/ inequality.

The numbers do reflect some staggering problems (i.e. The United States overall ranking is 42, behind places such as Lithuania and Croatia) but it also shows big improvements such as increases in the number of women receiving post-secondary education and entering the workforce.

Here is a really good slideshow for a quick look at some modern problems with gender inequality. With sources cited for more reading.

In conclusion the ad the campaign was clever and brought much needed attention to an important issue but is not necessarily a reflection of reality. To truly understand the plight of women requires diligent research.

On a personal note I did do some research and found gender inequality is still a big problem. Even in places such as the United States, Canada and England. This was deeply disappointing.

Humanists support equal rights for everyone. Gender inequality is an archaic problem best left in the past.

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2 years and counting

A lot has happened and I’d say even though I don’t put much up on this blog these days having made it 2 years makes me pretty happy.  So far I feel pretty good having shared information with the world and using this blog to help me fight the good fight. I am remotivated and so expect more frequent posts. In the meantime here my favorite entries over the past two years. In no particular order. Enjoy.

My quick look at the Ghost Hunters: Truth is Ben Radford from CSICOP deserves most of the credit for doing the research. I just had to share, he really nailed it.

The Mormons: A found a video that was pretty comprehensive and revealing. Would have been a shame not to share it.

Do Not Give to The Salvation Army: This was my most popular article. I released it in  December and it received several thousand views. Was happy to get the message to that many people. I was really disappointed with the Salvation army though.

The Power of Admitting ‘I don’t know’: My first, a least partially, philosophical entry. I still feel this way.

Ireland Breaks it Off with the Vatican: Enda Kenny’s Speech is deeply moving and powerful.

Religion would not survive life on new worlds: The consensus seems to be that it would survive if it adapted. Primarily religion would have to lose its geocentric tenants. This would likely drive religion into obscurity.

Definition of God: My first addition to the atheism/humanism library. Always a pleasure to go into philosophical examinations.

The Printable Humanist Declaration: One day I will do another one. There are two things I should have mentioned about it: First, it is important, that everyone have their own version. Second, it should always be reexamined for improvements.

The Why Humanism Series: Part 1, 2 and 3.  One day I will write a book about this.

Vaccinations Save Lives: I did a lot of research and I am really happy with the point I made. Was outside the the usual theme here but I really feel strongly about this issue.

I have had the luxury of coming across a lot of really great people, places and things around the web since I started this blog.  Thanks to everyone who joined in the conversations. Here’s to another great 2 years!

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Hope and Meaning In a Secular World Part 1: How Will You Be Remembered?

One of the strongest supports for the existence of religion is its ability to provide hope and meaning. Even I will admit that religion’s ability to provide hope and meaning is quite good. Religion provides answers to philosophical and existential questions, it provides moral support and social needs too.  Many supporters of religions do rightfully ask unbelievers ‘How does your life have meaning?(although sometimes asked quite smugly). There are many ways  unbelievers find hope and meaning. This blog will explain some of the ways I and other unbelievers find hope and meaning. It will be in 4 parts:

Part1: Secular Immortality

Part 2: Causes

Part 3: The Arts

Part 4: The Natural World

Part 1: Secular Immortality

Some time ago I saw a video in which senator Al Franken reveals Thomas Minnery’s deceit in his testimony before the senate. Minnery had submitted the testimony as part of an effort to fight the potential repealing of the Defence of Marriage Act. Minnery is the Vice President of Focus on the Family a strong anti-gay hate group. After watching the video I wished I could tell Minnery ‘You’re legacy will be one of hate. You will be remembered as someone who stood between people and their right to be happy. You will be remembered as a hate-monger. Mr.Minnery is this really how you want to be remembered?’ I can’t imagine anyone honestly wanting to be remembered this way.

There are only two known ways in which we can live forever: through our kids (in DNA) and in people’s memory. Atheists, humanists and other secularists take pride in knowing that by living an exemplary life now that after we die our immortal life will be a good one .

Your immortal life could  live on in people’s memory for many generations through pictures, videos and word of mouth. After you die you will be there in someone’s memory doing the things they remember you for. What that is is up to you. Would you want your legacy to be one like the Thomas Minnery’s of the world will be?

In our children our immortality is both physical and non-physical. Not only do our children provide us with immortality through their memory of us but through DNA. A physical part of us can and very likely will be passed on for generations.

In conclusion, Humanists take strength from knowing that being kind, caring and all of things that often take great courage and strength will not go to waste. Through other people’s memory’s you and all of the great things about you will live forever. An exemplary life leads to the kind of immortality that not only do we know is possible, but is one worth having.

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This is my Home

This is humanity. No religion, creeds or anything, just a human being human.

This Is My Home from Mark on Vimeo.

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Google takes on child pronography

Google has been fighting the nasty side of the web for a long time. Doing its best to blacklist websites that promote hate,violence, and different forms of evil and sickening pornography like child porn and animal cruelty. Today Google announced it is making the awesome step of creating a database of illegal images to ban from the web. According to The Telegraph:

‘The new database, which is expected to be operational within a year, will allow child porn images which have already been “flagged” by child protection organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to be wiped from the web in one fell swoop.’

This is too good not to share. Here is the whole story: Google builds new system to eradicate child porn images from the web.

Way to go Google! The world could use more news like this.

* Note: I really couldn’t think of a stronger word than sickening because there is no word strong enough to describe how bad that is. We all know this.

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