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Freethought Today · Vol. 27 No. 4 May 2010

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In the News

Dawkins, Hitchens:  Arrest the pope

Prominent atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are encouraging human rights lawyers to make the case to arrest Pope Benedict XVI for crimes against humanity on his state visit Sept. 16-19 to the U.K.

The Christian Post reported April 12 that the writers believe the pope can be arrested using the same legal principle that led to the arrest of the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on his 1998 visit to Britain. Pinochet was arrested in London and by the British government in March 2000.

“This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence,” said Dawkins.

“This man is not above or outside the law,” Hitchens said. “The institutionalized concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment.”

Unearthing new species was child’s play

Matthew Berger, 9, discovered a new hominid species in mid-April at the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Johannesburg, South Africa. Matthew was with his father, Lee Berger, an American paleoanthropologist.

The skeletons of four individuals were unearthed, including the one Matthew found, a 4-foot-2-inch boy. Scientists determined the find reveals a new species of hominid, which has been named Australopithecus sediba. Geologists estimated individuals lived 1.78 million to 1.95 million years ago, probably closer to the older date, when australopithecines and early species of Homo were contemporaries.

NCAA bans bible verses on field

The NCAA’s Football Rules Committee has instituted a ban on messages of any sort on “eye black,” worn beneath a player’s eyes to cut down on glare from the sun.

In the case of the University of Florida’s Tim Tebow, it was more like “flair from The Son.” Tebow used his face as a Christian billboard the past two seasons. After the 2009 BCS Championship Game, 92 million people Googled “John 3:16,” the verse he wore during the game.

The NFL also has a “no messages on the eye black” rule.

Ayatollah: Dangerous curves dead ahead

Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi, a senior Iranian cleric, told worshippers at overnight prayers April 17 in Tehran that women who dress inappropriately can bring Allah’s wrath in the form of natural disasters, reported Agence France-Presse.

“Many women who dress inappropriately . . . cause youths to go astray, taint their chastity and incite extramarital sex in society, which increases earthquakes,” Sedighi said. “Calamities are the result of people’s deeds. We have no way but conform to Islam to ward off dangers.”

The Islamic dress code is mandatory in Iran. Every post-pubescent woman regardless of her religion or nationality must cover her hair and bodily contours in public.

In response to the ayatollah, freethinker Jen McCreight (who blogs at blaghag.com) organized a Facebook event April 26: “I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty.”

After 14,000 people signed up in the first 24 hours, McCreight, of West Lafayette, Ind., wrote that what started as a joke had gone viral.

Hagee’s God moves in delirious ways

Rev. John Hagee brought his Christian-Zionist road show to the Lancaster County (Pa.) Convention Center on April 22, the Lancaster New Era reported.

Hagee, pastor at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, noted a volcano in Iceland erupted the day after the British Advertising Standards Authority ruled an ad for the Israeli Government Tourism Office falsely implied East Jerusalem is part of the state of Israel. It wasn’t mere coincidence that the volcano then erupted, shutting down Britain’s economy, the next day, Hagee said.

“That’s coincidence like the flood was a coincidence. That’s coincidence like the Red Sea was coincidence. That’s coincidence like the earthquake and the resurrection was [sic] coincidence,” Hagee told about 3,200 people at his Rally and Prophecy Seminar.

Hagee said the U.S. is also on its way to breaking a covenant with God. “Obama shunned Netanyahu and let the prime minister sit there by himself while he ate with his family. He was trying to pressure Israel to divide Jerusalem. But God is the president of Jerusalem, not the U.S.”

Bible museum likely not in Abu Dhabi?

Leaders of the Oklahoma-owned Hobby Lobby chain want to open a national bible museum to display the many biblical artifacts it’s accumulated. President Steve Green told the Tulsa World it hasn’t settled on a location yet. As you may have guessed, it’s a family business.

“We have had passed down to us, from my parents and my grandparents, a love for God’s word and have been passionate about that. We believe in the bible and believe it’s the most incredible book that’s ever been written,” Green said.

Steeler QB slips off Christian pedestal

Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger used to wear “Playing for Jesus” on his cleats and armbands until the NFL made him stop. “You don’t have to listen to what I have to say, but I will always have the opportunity to glorify God in all that I do,” he told the Baptist Press in a 2005 pre-Super Bowl interview.

On March 5, at The Velvet Elvis bar in Milledgeville, Ga. (home of writer Flannery O’Connor), Roethlisberger, 28, whipped it out (you know what) in public on the way to a bathroom with a 20-year-old woman. They stayed behind the locked door for 10 minutes. The woman charged him with sexual assault later, but authorities declined to prosecute. The NFL suspended him for up to six games.

The alleged victim’s friend told police that after Roethlisberger bought a round of drinks, he ordered “all my bitches, take some shots.”

Tom Krattenmaker, author of “Onward Christian Athletes,” wonders if a new catchphrase is in order: Partying for Jesus?

Graham ‘disinvited’ from prayer event

The U.S. Army rescinded its invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham for the May 6 National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon over remarks he made last December about Islam.

“True Islam cannot be practiced in this country,” Graham told CNN’s Campbell Brown. “You can’t beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they’ve committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries.”

Col. Tom Collins of the Army told The Associated Press that the invitation was not from the Pentagon but from the Colorado-based National Day of Prayer Task Force (which is housed at Focus on the Family).

Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which raised the objection, said the invitation offended Muslim employees at the Pentagon.

Students don’t embrace ‘Year of Our Lord’

Graduating students at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, have asked the school to give them the option of removing “in the Year of Our Lord” from the dates on their diplomas. The private college, founded in 1869, has ties to the Presbyterian Church.

Senior Sidra Qureshi, a Muslim student and president of Trinity Diversity Connection, said, “A diploma is a very personal item, and people want to proudly display it in their offices and homes.” She told the San Antonio Express-News that the phrase “is directly referencing Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ.”

Evolution = termination for bible scholar

Public acceptance of the theory of evolution by evangelical Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke led to his termination at the Orlando, Fla., campus of the Reformed Theological Seminary (“A mind for truth, a heart for God”).

After Waltke appeared in a video titled “Why Must the Church Come to Accept Evolution?” on the Web site of the BioLogos Foundation, he was asked by seminary administrators to have it removed. BioLogos then removed it.

Inside Higher Education reported on April 9 that Waltke “had lost his job over the video.” (Waltke offered his resignation, which was accepted.) Interim campus President Michael Milton said faculty members are allowed to have different views on creation, but “Darwinian views, and any suggestion that humans didn’t arrive on Earth directly from being created by God are not allowed, and faculty members know this.”

Irrefutable proof of risen Christ?

First Lutheran Church Pastor Greg Wallace’s Easter sermon included the following, reported the Redlands (Calif.) Daily Facts:

“As far as the physicality of the resurrection, as Christians that’s a non-negotiable,” Wallace said. “If the resurrection isn’t real, then the whole basis (of Christianity) is a sham and not worth much more than platitudes.”

Frank Tipler, mathematical physics professor at Tulane University in New Orleans and author of The Physics of Christianity, explained the science behind the faith: “Believe in the laws of physics and they will tell you Jesus rose from the dead.”

According to Tipler, Jesus’ body was a “glorified” body capable of “dematerializing” at one location and materializing in another. Modern particle physics provides a mechanism for dematerialization, Tipler said.

Cracks surface in Crystal Cathedral

Rev. Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. is $55 million in debt and owes tens of thousands of dollars to vendors for services provided at last year’s “Glory of Christmas” pageant. The megachurch earlier ordered major layoff and cut the number of stations airing the “Hour of Power” broadcast.

Kristina Oliver, who provides live animals for the manger scene from her Hemet-based farm, said she’s has been trying to collect nearly $57,000 from the church for months.

King Solomon, the first playboy?

A student group at the University of Texas-San Antonio encouraged students to trade in religious texts for pornography for three days in March with its “Smut for Smut” campaign.

Atheist Agenda President Carlos Morales said while porn is a symbol of misogyny for some, the bible also advocates mistreatment of women. “If they’re defining morality by what it says in the bible, then it’s OK to stone your children; it’s OK to tell women they can’t talk outside the church. I wouldn’t want to live by what they call ‘morality’ in the bible.”

[Note: According to First Kings, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.]

Polish musician in Dutch with law

Adam “Nergal” Darski, frontman for Behemoth, a Polish death-metal band, was charged March 8 for insulting Polish Catholics. The law says before a charge can be made, there must be at least two complaints. Darski made headlines in 2007 when he called the Catholic Church “the most murderous cult on the planet” during a show in Gdynia and tore up a copy of the bible onstage.

There was no judgment against Darski in an initial hearing, but since a second complaint has been filed, the matter goes to court. Darski said what he does onstage is artistic license and wasn’t meant to offend anyone’s religious feelings. The maximum sentence is two year in prison.

Graham daughter at Capitol revival

Several hundred Missourians kicked off 40 days of prayer and fasting with a revival-style prayer service March 29 in the Capitol in Jefferson City. Lawmakers are struggling to balance the budget with a revenue shortfall of $500 million.

People held hands in small groups to pray. Some then walked through the Capitol, pausing to pray outside office doors that God would grant unity, pure motives, wisdom, patience, humility and solutions, said the Jefferson City News Tribune.

“We need those prayers,” said Senate Majority Leader Kevin Engler. “If we can do this budget without God’s help, without divine intervention, I think we’re kidding ourselves.”

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, was keynote speaker. She said that God “can show us where money is that we never could have found without him.”

The Missouri Family Network and the National Day of Prayer Task Force coordinated the event.

Judge OKs ministry’s million-dollar bills

In 2006, the federal agents confiscated 83 packs of the Great News Network ministry’s gospel tracts, which resemble million-dollar bills. The tracts feature a “million-dollar question” and bible excerpts.

U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis ruled March 31 that agents violated the Fourth Amendment by seizing the tracts in Denton, Texas, without a warrant and ordered their return. Solis said the bill bear “no real resemblance” to U.S. currency and are not counterfeit money.

GNN has distributed over 1 million of the tracts, which are produced by Ray Comfort and Living Waters as an evangelism tool.

Raped 10-year-old denied abortion

A stepfather accused of raping and impregnating a 10-year-old in Mexico has been arrested but the girl can’t get an abortion.

The girl’s home state of Quintana Roo allows abortion in cases of rape during the first 90 days of pregnancy. But she is at 18 weeks [in late April].

Quintana Roo legislator Maria Hadad said continuing the pregnancy could cause severe mental and physical health problems for the girl. “It’s not just a high-risk pregnancy. It’s a pregnancy that puts the girl at risk,” Hadad said in a report by CNN.

Despite fierce opposition by the Catholic Church, abortions in the first three months of pregnancy with no restrictions were legalized in Mexico City in 2007. The law has been upheld by the country’s Supreme Court.

Indonesia upholds blasphemy statute

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled 8 to 1 Monday that a 45-year-old law banning religious blasphemy was constitutional, the New York Times reported April 19.

The law lets the government ban religious groups that “distort” or “misrepresent” official faiths, with penalties of up to five years in prison for convictions of heresy. The law also limits the number of officially recognized religions to six: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism.

About 90 percent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslims.

Somali music resumes but bells silent

Somalia’s Islamist insurgent group, the Shabab, outlawed school bells in the town of Jowhar because they sounded too much like church bells. The Shabab also banned internationally recognized days like World AIDS Day. Only Islamic festivals can be observed, the New York Times reported.

Radio stations in Mogadishu stopped playing any music, even to introduce daily news broadcasts, after another Islamist group, Hizbul Islam, warned radio stations to stop or face “serious consequences.” The ban was rescinded later that day.

Somalia hasn’t had an effective government for 19 years.

Business not divine at ‘pro-life’ store

The Divine Mercy Care Pharmacy in Chantilly, Va., closed in March, the Washington Post reported April 13: “It turns out that no birth control pills, no condoms, no porn, no tobacco and even no makeup added up to one thing: No customers.”

A Catholic priest sprinkled holy water on the self-described “pro-life” pharmacy when it opened in 2008. “The marketplace spoke, and women voted with their feet,” said Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops estimates that 4 percent of married Catholic couples use natural family planning.

Dublin’s Irish Museum of Contemporary Art opened its “Blasphemous” exhibit on Good Friday to protest the nation’s new anti-blasphemy law.

The first piece to greet visitors parodied Michelangelo’s Pieta, with the Virgin Mary transformed into a giant rat. A multimedia piece called Resur-erection featured stop-motion priests and bishops in seamy scenarios.

“We want to raise awareness about the new blasphemy law,” curator K. Bear Koss told Time magazine, “and to celebrate the freedoms of discourse that the law seeks to stifle.”

Christian DA: Stay mum on sex ed

The district attorney in Juneau County, Wisconsin, warned schools in a letter to drop sex education courses. Scott Southworth said a new law could lead to criminal charges against teachers for contributing to the delinquency of minors.

The law requires schools that have sex education programs to tell students how to use condoms and other contraceptives. Southworth said such education encourages illegal sex by minors and could lead to charges against teachers.

He disputed claims he’s trying to promote his political views. “If I’d wanted to be ideological, I would have said in the letter you shouldn’t have sex before marriage because that’s the Christian perspective. I’m an evangelical,” Southworth said.

You judge who’s mentally disordered

Bradley Lopez, a science teacher at Fresno (Calif.) City College, is appealing a warning from the school to stop telling students that homosexuality is a mental disorder and quoting the bible as proof that human life begins at conception.

Lopez disputes some of the allegations in the letter, which outlines what a teacher must do to avoid further discipline. He plans to contest the notice in an administrative process that lets him challenge alleged deficiencies in his teaching methods.

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