Freethought Today · Vol. 27 No. 5 June/July 2010

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

In the News

¡Adios a Dios!

Check out the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s new page of literature for freethinkers in Spanish. Two entire books are available for free: Ruth Hurmence Green’s Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible, translated by Juan Oliver, and Dan Barker’s 1992 book Losing Faith in Faith, translated by Ángel Arnal Artigas. Some FFRF nontracts and other articles are available as well. They are online at:
ffrf.org/publications/espanol/

Soccer vs. religion fight turns deadly

David Makoeya, 61, died June 13 in Makweya, South Africa, after a struggle with his wife and two adult children over whether to watch soccer or a religious program on TV.

Makoeya wanted to change the channel from a gospel show to soccer. Police spokesman Mothemane Malefo said an argument ensued. “It appears they banged his head against the wall. They phoned the police only after he was badly injured, but by the time the police arrived, the man was already dead.”

“He was always a happy man, never violent,” Makoeya’s nieces, Miriam and Anna, told the Daily Sun newspaper. “On Saturday, we saw him the last time at a funeral.”

N.D. freethinker wins plate debate

A Fargo, N.D., freethinker who was denied an ISNOGOD license plate appealed the denial and was granted the plate by the state Department of Transportation.

Brian Magee, who co-hosts The Amplified Atheist on Fargo radio station KNDS, had objected on the show about religiously themed license plates being government issued. After being denied, he appealed and sent photos of plates that are allowed by the state like PRZZGOD, ILOVGOD and TRI GOD.

Arkansas atheists adopt a highway

Some religious leaders aren’t too happy about letting the Atheist Community of Jonesboro, Ark., pick up litter along U.S. 63 four times a year, with two “adopt a highway” signs with “atheist” on them bracketing each end of the one-mile stretch of road.

Methodist Pastor John Miles said few “want to be known as the town with the organized atheist group.” Bob Hester of the American Family Association spoke in opposition. “It’s not a good advertisement for the city of Jonesboro whatsoever.”

ACJ Director Joseph Langston said most people are taking it calmly. “There are more here in Jonesboro who don’t believe in God than people realize. If they’re atheists, they fly under the radar.”

‘Touchdown Jesus’ destroyed by fire

A man called police dispatch June 14 in Monroe, Ohio, to report he’d seen lightning strike the right hand of Jesus, but firefighters couldn’t save him. The six-story concoction of fiberglass and styrofoam was quickly consumed by flame except for its steel frame.

Darlene Bishop, co-pastor of Solid Rock Church, where the King of King statue stood, said she was glad that lightning hit Jesus and not the home for at-risk women next door. She told the women, “It looks like Jesus took a hit for you last night.”

It was built in 2004 and had several nicknames, including “Touchdown Jesus,” “Quicksand Jesus,” “Big Butter Jesus” and “Drowning Jesus.” It cost $250,000 to build. It was insured, but the church wants to rebuild at a higher cost to make it fireproof.

Pope accepts Irish bishops’ resignations

Pope Benedict accepted the resignations in May of two Irish bishops, bringing to five the number who have quit since the abuse crisis hit the Irish Catholic Church.

Joseph Duffy, bishop of Clogher, and Francis Lagan, auxiliary bishop of Derry, stepped down after reaching the retirement age of 75. Bishops are required to tender their resignations at 75, but the pope can decline to accept and, in some cases, he has kept bishops well past that age.

Gay Malawi couple splits after pardon

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, broke off their relationship about two weeks after receiving a presidential pardon May 29 in Malawi, where they had been sentenced to 14 years in prison on sodomy charges.

They were arrested in December after holding a wedding ceremony in Blantyre. Their arrest triggered international protests over Malawi’s  anti-gay laws.

“I am no longer in love with Tiwonge Chimbalanga. I am in love with a woman called Dorothy Gulo,” Monjeza told The [U.K.] Mail & Guardian. Chimbalanga said he read about Monjeza’s decision in the newspaper, but said, “I am not disappointed about this. There are lots of good men around. I will remain a gay.”

Kansas sales tax on abortion fails

A Kansas legislator, Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, a Shawnee Republican, put forth an amendment in May to a sales-tax bill that would tax abortions. “If you want less of something, you tax it,” Pilcher Cook said.

Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said a tax would reduce abortions and perhaps stop another abortion provider from opening a clinic in the wake of Dr. George Tiller’s murder. The amendment failed 17-22.

‘Agora’ on big screen celebrates Hypatia

Debuting in June in large markets is the movie, “Agora,” about Hypatia, the 4th-century historical figure who was a child prodigy and became a great female scholar, philosopher and head of the University of Alexandria in Egypt.

The pagan nonbeliever’s bloody death — she was literally torn into pieces by a mob of monks — during the sacking of Alexandria and its libraries by Christians essentially ushered in the Dark Ages.

Hypatia is played by the beautiful Rachel Weisz, a terrific British actress, who recently told The New York Times:

“The hot topic these days is Islamic fundamentalism. But in ‘Agora,’ it’s the Christians who are the fundamentalists.”

The movie, directed by acclaimed Chilean-born Alejandro Amenabar, whose credits include “The Others,” got a glowing review from Times’ critic A.O. Scott, who wrote that it’s “bristling with ideas and topical provocations” and unfolds “in a world of togas, sandals and high-flown language.”

Scott ended his review: “It is entirely — not dogmatically but stubbornly — on the side of reason, science and liberalism, values opposed by superstition, fundamentalism and political expediency. The world of Alexandria in the later years of the Roman Empire is one in which the forces of intolerance, whatever deity they profess, always seem to have the upper hand, and in which even ostensibly rational, compassionate rulers collaborate with the faith-based holy warriors.

“The parallels between then and now are hardly subtle. The warning bell that ‘Agora’ sounds may be loud and at times a little grating, but what’s wrong with that? The skeptical and the secular also need stories of martyrdom and rousing acts of cinematic preaching.”

Lake Hypatia, Ala., where FFRF owns its southern Freethought Hall and where its chapter, the Alabama Freethought Association, meets and holds an annual July 4 event, is named for Hypatia.

Rwandan pastor gets life for genocide

François Bazaramba, 59, a Baptist pastor in Rwanda, was sentenced June 11 to life in prison for genocide by a court in Finland, where he’s been held since 2007. The court said Bazaramba intended to “destroy in whole or part the Rwandan Tutsis as a group.”

About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu militias in the 100-day slaughter in 1994.

Was it ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’?

A colleague on the Wellington Town Council in Shropshire, England, accused Councillor Pat McCarthy of “disgusting” behavior for listening to music during a recital of the Lord’s Prayer.

McCarthy, 53, earlier had asked that prayer be voluntary and held before meetings, reported The [U.K.] Daily Telegraph. When that didn’t happen, McCarthy instead listened to Bob Dylan on his iPhone.

“Wellington Town Council is like going back to the 1950s. I think it’s their intolerance that is shameful,” McCarthy said. “It makes the whole council into a Christian enclave, a club with insiders and outsiders.”

Stanzas replace chapter and verse

The new mayor of Enfield, a London borough, irked council members who chastised her for “irreligious” dumping of prayer at meetings, reported the Enfield Independent. Jayne Buckland replaced prayers with verse by inviting poets to read their works.

Those who wish to pray can do so in the mayor’s parlor. Council leader Doug Taylor defended the decision, stating the poems would “support and encourage the arts.”

Gay coach barred from church league

A women’s softball coach in Cordova, Tenn., said her team was banned from a church league in June after learning she was gay.

Jana Jacobson told The [Memphis] Commercial Appeal that officials at Bellevue Baptist Church told her she had a “deviant” lifestyle and her team would not be allowed to compete. She said her team has straight and gay players.

Jacobson said she paid the entry fee and attended an organizational meeting before the church’s recreation minister told her that the team’s participation would send a message to Bellevue members that the church condoned her lifestyle.

Iowa teacher fired for ‘atheist statements’

Abby Nurre lost her job as an eighth-grade math teacher at St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge, Iowa, for making “atheist statements in a public forum.”

Nurre, 27, responded in August to a Facebook poll in which she was asked whether she believed in God, miracles or heaven. Nurre answered, “No.” Her answers became part of her Facebook autobiography page, accessible only to her designated “friends.”

In November, she posted an online comment to Atheist Nexus and linked to a news story about spending $2.3 million on prayer research.

The school’s board of directors fired her in January for advocating “principles contrary to the dogmatic and moral teaching of the church.”

The school tried to deny her unemployment benenfits but a judge ruled she was entitled to them because the school failed to prove misconduct.

“I believe in knowledge,” Nurre testified. “I believe in communicating with other people of different beliefs. I believe in being an open person. That, to me, is not immoral.”

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