Idiocracy’s Advent

Stunning.

When asked during her confirmation hearing of January 17th as to whether she still believes in conversion therapy, Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Education Secretary, side-stepped the allegation inherent in the question by claiming all students “no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe”.

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The Muzzling of Satire?

It was Australian actor, author, and comedian extraordinaire, Barry Humphries (whose gifts to the world include the larger-than-life Dame Edna Everage, among others), who made the following pithy observation:

It is this shared sentiment – one of despair at the misapprehension of satire, its importance in calling out demagoguery and ills in general, and the ever-present possibility of its erosion in the face of popular obtuseness – that got me in a bit of a rage this week, on discovering the palliative efforts of an American academic in combatting public credulity. Relevant, particularly, in the wake of the muck-fest of misinformation that was the 2016 US presidential race. Continue reading

United States of Delusional Prudes: Raw Story

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The generally balanced and refreshingly honest online news agency, The Raw Story, has just published a statistics-laden article1 bemoaning, in somewhat self-flagellatory terms, the delusional, prudish, and Bible-thumping tendencies of its fellow Americans. This, presumably, is relative to the rest of the urbane and cultured planetary population, who are fashionably apatheistic, sport enviable body mass indices, and don’t get gunned down on their way to frappuccinos and carrot cake.

The article can perhaps be seen in the context of several introspective posts seen on social media recently (for example that of “Millennial Journalist” Alexis Bloomer, albeit on a personal/generational level, rather than on a national one),2 that may be indicative of the type of deepening, coming-of-age self-awareness that is Continue reading

We Are All Born Atheist

Very good article, and very clearly written.

The sad yet clear double standard is that many, if not most, religious parents will insist that their faith is a personal choice to which they are entitled – and quite rightly so, as per Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – but fail to apply that freedom to their own children, when it comes to inculcating their beliefs into them. My gripe, I suppose, is that I do not believe that parents have a ‘right to raise their children as they see fit’, as this is a dangerously subjective precept that gives carte blanche to coercive and abusive practices (for the most extreme cases, one need look no further than the New Hartford parents who whipped their son to death with electrical cables last year,1 for wanting to leave their church) as much as it does to the teaching of socially adaptive behaviour.

By coincidence, I was reading about the matter of religious versus secular education, and came across the following from the New Zealand Secular Education Network, which includes an important distinction worth repeating:

‘Religious Instruction means teaching and endorsing a faith in its own right, for example the practice of Church volunteers “leading children to a faith in Jesus”. There is a significant difference between religious instruction and religious studies, [which teach] a comparative overview of the major world religions, taken by qualified teachers in a neutral manner.’

I am all in favour of Religious Studies, as, atheist or not, religion is an important cultural component of the backdrop of humanity, and a comparative appreciation of world religions can foster a sense of connectedness and an understanding of our heritage. On the other hand, the necessarily partial and exclusive teachings in Religious Instruction tend to foster an ‘us-and-them’ mentality that can be detrimental to social cohesion, encourage belief in the fantastical and/or magical as on an equal footing with physical reality, and finally – for the sake of their own survival – stand against critical, rational thinking.

Our children deserve better than that.

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1 Sanchez, Ray, and Lawrence Crook. “Police: Teen killed in N.Y. church assault wanted out.” Edition.cnn.com. Cable News Network, 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 7 May 2016.

Matthew Phillips

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That’s right, even the zealous, the pious and the most committed of religious characters were born without any beliefs in gods. As Richard Dawkins points out in “The God Delusion”, children don’t have religions their parents do. We are born without knowledge of our culture, without an understanding of social stratification and without superstition. Children don’t inherit characteristics of social division, they are labelled with them. We ascribe them to them. They have to be learned and are invariably taught. In fact a quick search for “Christian preschool” will return a host of results for places children from 2 to 5 years old can learn about Christianity  while learning to grip a pencil, identify colours and count to 20. Hazel’s Christian Preschool  takes the view that…

“Through creative exploration and “hands on” approach, each child is supported emotionally,cognitively, physically, social growth and foundational opportunities to know God as our loving creator and…

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Most British students favor NUS’s “no platforming” policy

On the sorry state of freedom of speech across UK university populations, and the worrying tendency (I’m not yet sure ‘trend’ would be appropriate) of censoring – whence the neologism ‘no-platforming’ – those with whose views students disagree.

In the words of Noam Chomsky, ‘If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all’.

Why Evolution Is True

Well, the no-platforming policy of British students continues apace. This time it involves rescinding a speaking invitation to the Donald Trump of England—London mayor Boris Johnson (they’re both clowns, but Johnson’s hair is marginally better). Johnson was set to take part in debates at King’s College London about whether Britain should dissociate itself from the EU. Writing in The Sun about how leaving the EU would solidify Britain’s ties to the U.S., he had said this about President Obama:

Something mysterious happened when Barack Obama entered the Oval Office in 2009.

Something vanished from that room, and no one could quite explain why.

It was a bust of Winston Churchill – the great British war time leader. It was a fine goggle-eyed object, done by the brilliant sculptor Jacob Epstein, and it had sat there for almost ten years.

But on day one of the Obama administration it was returned, without ceremony, to the…

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