Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Interesting News Items

Posted by Torin Golding

Here are two posts from around the web that may be of interest:

The first concerns a "debate" happening tonight at the British Council in the UK. Two public figures put forward a short response to the question "Is religion a threat to rationality and science?", pro and con. I'll follow up with the actual debate transcript if I can find it. Is religion a threat to rationality and science? from the Guardian

The second post is one of hopefully many rebuttals to the Ben Stein Creationist movie that is now open in the US (and that has bought a lot of air time for commercials- someone is funding this stinker). Paul Abrams over at the Huffington Post writes a very concise and very hard hitting attack on Stein's film and tactics. Creationist Movie "Expelled" with Ben Stein: A Blasphemy to Nazi-Resister Teachers from the Huffington Post


Monday, April 14, 2008

Lazy Article on 'The Dangers of Dawkins'

Posted by Torin Golding

Guardian Article

As the case with most of these type of articles, the real meat is in the comments section, where in my opinion the posters do a good job of pointing out Ravenhill's disingenuousness.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Darwin Day Monkey Parade!

Posted by Torin Golding

Many thanks to all who participated in the Monkey Parade today, and those who helped organize, especially Boythorn Ironclad.

I've posted snapshots here on Flickr.

Happy Darwin Day everyone! :)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Monday, January 7, 2008

Abolish Blasphemy Laws

I just got this through from the British Humanist Association:


An amendment is being tabled to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill by Dr Evan Harris MP to abolish the offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel are abolished.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has long campaigned for the blasphemy laws to be abolished, and we have been briefing MPs about the present amendment, as well as representing the case for abolition to Government, and you can help to support it too!

We need to demonstrate to MPs that their constituents support this move and we have set up a facility whereby you can email your MP directly by going to http://tinyurl.com/2gkm7w

Please use the site today and help to abolish this antiquated law!


Reasons to abolish the blasphemy laws

There are a number of compelling reasons to abolish the blasphemy laws, which are listed below.

· The blasphemy law is contrary to the principle of free speech and is probably contrary to human rights laws adopted by the UK, which protect freedom of expression. The law fundamentally protects certain, Christian, beliefs and makes it illegal to question them or deny them.

· There is considerable evidence that the blasphemy law restricts free speech even in the absence of recent prosecutions. It undoubtedly influences the behaviour not only of individuals and the media, but also of bodies exercising official functions.

· The blasphemy law protects beliefs, not people. It is right, subject to safeguards, for society through its laws to protect individuals and groups within it from hatred and attack. It is quite wrong to extend the protection of the law to propositions, creeds and truth-claims.

· In a free society we must be allowed to criticise religious doctrines and practices, even if that offends some people. While it may be offensive to some Christian believers to hear their beliefs mocked or denied that is equally true of people of other faiths, and of unbelievers, who repeatedly hear atheism equated with a lack of values or immorality. In an open and pluralist society there should be no inhibition to free speech without the very strongest justification, and robust debate should be expected and accepted in religious as in political and other spheres.

· The blasphemy law is uncertain. As common law, with a very limited number of cases, it is impossible to predict how the courts might interpret the law in any putative case. This is contrary to the principles of good law, and unacceptable in practice.

· The blasphemy law lacks credibility. Although no one has been imprisoned for blasphemy since 1921, and private prosecutions are no longer possible, the possibility of a prison sentence remains, and a law that is only enforced at intervals of many years is an indefensible lottery.

· The blasphemy law allows no defence of merit or lack of intent, which is contrary to the principles adopted in other areas, for example, obscenity.

· The blasphemy law defends only Christianity (and principally the doctrines of the Church of England), which is unacceptable in a society characterised by its diversity of beliefs. Such unequal treatment naturally arouses resentment and demands for the privilege to be extended to other groups.

· Rather than extend the blasphemy laws to other religious beliefs, which in practice would constitutes the severest restriction on discussion of fundamental matters of profound significance and interest, the most fair and most equal and equal solution would be to abolish the laws.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Secular Holiday Charity Drive

Congratulations Humanists! The secular holiday charity drive was a great success! Our final tally was L$52,708.00 or $184.30 US. I rounded this up to $200 US and sent in our donation to Oxfam International today! We should be getting a card back from them soon, which I will digitize and share with you.

Here are some things that our $200 may have bought to help make a difference around the world (from the Oxfam website):
We may have provided a family with 4.5 sheep, 2 cows, or 1 camel

We may have planted 333 trees

We may have paid for the irrigation of a farmer’s field for 1.5 years

We may have started two small businesses

We may have bought 6 desks for a local school

We may have paid for 6 community members to receive gender rights training
Each of those things would be covered by $200 US. Thank you thank you thank you for helping to make a difference this holiday season and show that Humanists will step up to the plate and show our compassion in practical ways. I’m so proud to be a part of this group!

A happy and peaceful new years to you and yours!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Amazing article, citing the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' interdisciplinary study known as The Fundamentalism Project:

The Fundamentalist Agenda

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sunday Meeting Docs: Won't Somebody Think About The Children!?!

UPDATED: Chatlog of Meeting Here

Meeting at 2pm SL time in the Humanism Garden

Meeting Topic: "Won't Somebody Please Think About The Children!?!" What is the best way to teach Humanist values to children? What rights do children have to a secular education? Are they somebody's kids or everybody's kids?

Some things to think about:

German Baptist couple loses custody of kids for homeschooling

Dawkins on Religion as Child Abuse

The Simpsons

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Meeting Minutes: Humanism & Feminism

The readable meeting minutes (sans timestamps) can be found here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Minutes Posted

Our Halloween meeting minutes are now posted. You can find them online at http://sleeds.org/chatlog/?c=161

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More Readable Meeting Minutes

Check this out and see if you would prefer getting your group minutes this way:


You can make it know on this post's comments if you like the idea of having our minutes circulated this way from now on.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Next Meeting: Creationism Documents

The European Union statement rejecting Creationism:

Review of some recent anti- and pro-Darwin books:

US State Georgia Putting Bible Classes in Public School:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

How Rational Are You?

Posted by Torin Golding

Thanks to Mickey James for these links:

How well thought out is your rationality? Play these very interesting games from philosophers.co.uk. The first, Do-It-Yourself Deity, is a good place to start (click here to play). You can then graduate to Battleground God (click here to play).

You can read more about both games here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wacky Creationists

Posted by Torin Golding

Just when you thought they couldn't get any worse:

YouTube Caves to Indicted Creationist

(Thanks to Mickey James for the link!)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pagans vs. Homer

Posted by Torin Golding

An amusing story about a group of British pagans who are annoyed that Fox made a huge Homer Simpson next to the Cerne Abbas Giant. It was made with water based paint, so of course they're praying for rain. The BBC has the story.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Secular Humanism in the Nation Magazine

The cover story of this month's Nation magazine is called "The New Atheists: Toward a Revival of Secular Humanism" by Ronald Aronson. You can read it online here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sunday's Meeting: The Folly of Creationism


17 June 2:00pm SL Time in the Humanism Garden.

Topic: "The Folly of Creationism". What is behind the Intelligent Design "debate"? How is it best combated?

Here are some interesting links to get you prepared:

The Crazy Creationism Museum in Kentucky

Dawkins on Creationism

Humanist Blog Entries on Creationism

Debating Creationism

Friday, June 8, 2007

Currently the most ridiculus thing in SL:


You thought it was SL performance issues, or the fact that LL customer service does not exist??

This was seen on SL Exchange.

The asking price: L$6000000- which translates to over 22 THOUSAND US DOLLARS (one and a half times the price of a modest sized car in the US).

The seller says it took him weeks to do with sculpties. Uh huh......

And that's worth 22 THOUSAND US DOLLARS???

The seller's comment about the sticker price seems to suggest they know how much L$6000000 is.

22 THOUSAND US DOLLARS for something that after one server burp can go *poof* and there is nothing you can do about it!

22 THOUSAND US DOLLARS would buy you 13 islands in SL, for a total of about 852 thousand sq. m. of land!

22 THOUSAND US DOLLARS would also buy one island and cover all fees for four straight years!

22 THOUSAND US DOLLARS would feed 1650 children in Malawi for a month, according to Oxfam

22 THOUSAND US DOLLARS would also provide fresh water to 782 villages in Africa, according to Oxfam again.


(and i'm still unclear how buying this contributes to fulfilling any "greater goals of Virtual Education"... )

Friday, May 18, 2007

Drama Alert!!!


Some of the faith based groups in SL are quarreling again:

New World Notes Report

SLNN Report

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Atheists with Attitude


Interesting 'history' of atheist thought in the New Yorker by:

Anthony Gottlieb

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Dead at 73


American members of the group will know him well. To give a flavor of his pronouncements to the rest of the group who live outside the US:
  • "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say you helped this (the 9/11 tragedy) happen"

  • “I had a student ask me, 'Could the savior you believe in save Osama bin Laden?' Of course, we know the blood of Jesus Christ can save him, and then he must be executed”

  • “AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals”

  • “If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being”

  • “[homosexuals are] brute beasts...part of a vile and satanic system [that] will be utterly annihilated, and there will be a celebration in heaven.”

  • I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!

  • I believe that global warming is a myth. And so, therefore, I have no conscience problems at all and I'm going to buy a Suburban next time.

  • We're fighting against humanism, we're fighting against liberalism ... we are fighting against all the systems of Satan that are destroying our nation today ... our battle is with Satan himself.

  • Perhaps the most amazing thing is that he was consistently given a free platform on every mainstream network in the US to spew this kind of bile. He was a racist, bigoted, homophobic, anti-intellectual, dominionist whose actions ranged from the laughably ludicrous (accusing the Tele Tubby Tinky Winky of turning children gay) to the sinister (his founding of the so-called Moral Majority to assist in the hijacking of the Republican party by dominionist Christians). The world is just a little bit of a cleaner place now that he is gone.

    And lest you confuse my celebration of his death as anti-humanist: Conservatives tend to moralize people based on what they do in private. Liberals, such as myself, moralize people based on what they do in their public. Falwell chose to be a public figure, and his public performance was willingly poison to both American culture and politics. The harm he did will certainly survive him for a while, as there are many clones clamoring to take his place on the nation's airwaves, but he is finally off of the public stage. We only knew this public side of the man, and that is how he will be judged by history.

    It's almost worth wishing there was a hell.

    (Clock's ticking, Pat Robertson...)

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Pat Tillman- Freethinking Hero

    Posted by TORIN GOLDING

    I heard a newstory on the radio today that put me in mind of our group discussion about heroes last week. It wasn't on the mainstream media in the US (who wouldn't touch this story with a 50 foot pole since they're cowards and collaborators).

    Pat Tillman is famous in America for being a hotshot football player who gave up a lucrative sports contract to enlist in the military after 9/11 and got posted to Afghanistan. There he was killed in the line of duty. At first, the American armed forces used him as a posthumous spokesperson for the so-called "War on Terror" because he was an all-American sports hero who got killed fighting for freedom (or something). Then it finally emerged that 1) he was killed by 'friendly fire' and 2) the military actively covered that up to use him as a poster child for the war. After that revelation, the US media pretty much stopped covering his story.

    Which is a shame because it got even more interesting. Because of his popularity, Tillman was given a large funeral recently. Some shameless celebrities and politicians got up and spoke about how 'he is with God now.' Then Tillman's brother got up and said:

    "Thanks Pat. I didn't write shit because I'm not a writer. I'm not just going to sit here and break down on you. But thanks for coming. Pat's a fucking champion and always will be. Just make no mistake, he'd want me to say this: He's not with God. He's fucking dead. He's not religious. So, thanks for your thoughts, but he's fucking dead. (transcribed by the Uncivil Litigator on his blog.)

    It seems that Tillman, according to his family, was an active freethinker and a probable atheist. He was outspoken about his opposition to the Iraqi occupation, and in life actively resisted being used for its propaganda (even if, ironically, tragically, the Bush administration attempted to do just that with his death). If the mainstream media were unwilling to present his true character before, they certainly are now.

    I never would have thought I'd consider an ex-professional athlete / military man a hero, but the more I learn about Tillman, the more impressed I am at his courage and principles. Here are some more references to Tillman's story:

    Pat Tillman Our Hero

    Brother of Pat Tillman accuses military of deception

    Pat Tillman is Atheist Worm Dirt

    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    Outreach Committees

    Posted by TORIN GOLDING

    The group is recruiting members interested in getting involved with group outreach. Two committees have formed, one on Publicity, and one on Service. Here is the original call:

    We are creating two outreach committees that are basically small subgroups of SL Humanism. The purpose of these committees will be to brainstorm approaches about their respective domains and to report back to the SL Humanism officers about proposals and ideas. This is initially a short term commitment. It is a way to get involved with the SL Humanism group beyond the regular Sunday meetings.

    The two committees are described below. The final section has the procedure for signing up for one or both committees.

    [ One word about protocol: nothing agreed to by a committee has official standing within the group until the Officers and Director officially implement it. ]

    Purpose: Discuss group publicity and networking to the larger freethinking and progressive SL community. Develop strategies and practical opportunities. One really good approach that has been raised recently in Sunday meetings is a "Humanism Yellow Pages", a collection of categorized landmarks of SL businesses who are either run by Humanists or Humanist-friendly. This might be a good first project for this Committee.

    Purpose: Social service to the wider SL community. What practical contribution can the SL Humanism group make? Is there a practical way to do regular charity fundraising or similar action? Is there a way to build an 'action group' within SL Humanism that will interact with RL causes within SL? Is there a role for non-professionals in service? Do prospective Humanists need help and support 'coming out'? What is appropriate for an SL environment?

    To sign up for a committee visit these fora and start posting. Organizers will also hold in-game meetings as well.

    For Committee One (Publicity) go here: Committee One

    For Committee Two (Service) go here: Committee Two

    Welcome to the SL Humanism Blog!

    Welcome Humanists inside and outside of Second Life. This blog will hold the contributions of the members of the SL Humanism members as well as group news and information. It will also allow comments on relevant posts.

    To post as a member of the group, drop your post on Torin Golding inside SL on a notecard, or see this thread on our messageboard: How to Post on the Blog

    Happy blogging!