Atheists should be “hunted down vehemently” by authorities, says Malaysian minister

“The (Federal Constitution) does not mention atheists. It goes against the Constitution and human rights," Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim told the Malaysian Parliament today. “I suggest that we hunt them down vehemently and we ask for help to identify these groups.”

From Yahoo News:

A photo of the gathering by the Kuala Lumpur chapter of Atheist Republic, or “consulate”, has caused uproar from some in the Muslim community recently after it was highlighted by pro-Islamist blogs, leading to violent and death threats on social media.

Deputy minister in charge of Islamic affairs Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said yesterday Putrajaya [the federal administrative centre of Malaysia] will investigate the local group, even roping in the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, as it allegedly involved the faith of Muslims in the country.

Image: Sledge hammer of God / Wikipediaedia Read the rest

Uptight Ottawa Catholics outraged that Archbishop allowed giant robot spider on cathedral roof

Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has apologised to local parishioners who took offense at the brief presence of a giant robotic spider on the cathedral roof, placed there by the La Machine theatre troupe, who stage massive street productions involving robots and puppets (like the Sultan's Elephant and this amazing Jules Verne-inspired show). Read the rest

The 3 question math quiz can predict if you believe in God

Researchers asked 179 Canadian college students to answer the following three math questions:

1. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? ____cents

2. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? _____minutes

3. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? _____days

From Relatively Interesting:

After completing the quiz, the students were asked about their innate religiosity, religious beliefs, and beliefs in supernatural entities (like God, angels, and Satan).

The results?

The more religious the students were, the less likely they were to have demonstrated effective analytical reasoning on the three questions. Conversely, the better the students did on the questions, the less likely they were to have strong beliefs.

Religious people tended to give the intuitive answers to the questions, and non-religious people gave the analytic answers.

Most of the theists I know would be able to correctly answer these questions. Math puzzle inventor Martin Gardner was a theist and would have been able to answer these questions in an instant. Read the rest

Two people drowned in river baptisms

Two adult men drowned during their baptisms in the Ungwasi River in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania in Africa.

“Following the incident, we have agreed on some measures that will ensure the safety of our followers during baptism in the rivers,” Victory Christian Center pastor Samuel Kamigwa was quoted as saying.

From Religion News:

Kamigwa said churches were considering increasing the number of ministers at one baptism event. They would also baptize one person at a time, while others are kept at a safe distance, and will choose a time when the water is calm enough for the ritual....

Last year, six children died in Zimbabwe’s eastern province of Mashonaland during an early morning baptism in a stream by a self-styled prophetess.

And in January 2015, two elderly Pentecostal church pastors drowned in Mutshedzi River in Limpopo Province of South Africa, where they had gone to baptize four junior church members.

Read the rest

Beautiful film on a Buddhist ritual only 46 monks have completed

The Kaihōgyō is a quest to become a living Buddha through 1000 days of gruelling rituals. Ivan Olita was granted rare access to a temple near Kyoto to film The Seven Year Pilgrimage to Enlightenment.

Read the rest

The Cheesecake Factory has bankrolled a huge temple in an unincorporated California town

Saranap is an unincorporated, loosely governed town in Contra Costa County in Northern California; it is home to a 66,000 square foot temple built by a religion called Sufism Reoriented, which has little to do with traditional Sufiism, being dedicated to the idea that an Indian man called Meher Baba was the reincarnation of Buddha and Christ and God on earth and that he will return in 700 years. Read the rest

Religious leaders tripping balls... for science

Psychologists at Johns Hopkins University are currently giving two dozen religious leaders psilocybin, the psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms, to, y'know, see what happens. From The Guardian:

Despite most organised religions frowning on the use of illicit substances, Catholic, Orthodox and Presbyterian priests, a Zen Buddhist and several rabbis were recruited. The team has yet to persuade a Muslim imam or Hindu priest to take part, but “just about all the other bases are covered,” according to (study co-leader Dr. William) Richards....

“It is too early to talk about results, but generally people seem to be getting a deeper appreciation of their own religious heritage,” he said. “The dead dogma comes alive for them in a meaningful way. They discover they really believe this stuff they’re talking about.”

There is also a suggestion that after their psychedelic journey, the leaders’ notions of religion shifted away from the sectarian towards something more universal. “They get a greater appreciation for other world religions. Other ways up the mountain, if you will,” said Richards.

“In these transcendental states of consciousness, people seem to get to levels of consciousness that seem universal,” he added. “So a good rabbi can encounter the Buddha within him.”

"Religious leaders get high on magic mushrooms ingredient – for science" (The Guardian) Read the rest

Now any Floridian can ask to have public schools' science and literary curriculum censored

Florida Governor Rick Scott [R] has signed CS/CS/HB 989: Instructional Materials, sponsored by Rep Byron Donalds [R-Naples, @ByronDonalds, (239) 417-6270], and that means that anyone in Florida, regardless of whether they are the parent of a Florida pupil, can ask for an "unbiased hearing officer" to censor the teaching materials used in Florida classrooms. Read the rest

Man destroys Arkansas' Ten Commandments monument

A 3-ton monument displaying the Ten Commandments was destroyed hours after being installed at Arkansas' State Capitol Wednesday, smashed by Michael T. Reed at the wheel of a 2016 Dodge Dart. Reed, 32, was arrested and charged with "defacing an object of public respect."

Reed, evidently a vigorous supporter of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution's implicit prohibition of state religion, posted vertical video of his manuever to Facebook under the caption "Freedom".

Reed was arrested in 2014 for driving a car into the Ten Commandments monument at Oklahoma's state Capitol, Oklahoma County Sheriff's spokesman Mark Opgrande told The Associated Press. He was admitted to a hospital the next day for mental treatment and was not formally charged, the AP reports. In the 2014 incident, The Oklahoman reported that the U.S. Secret Service interviewed Reed and that he told agents that he has bipolar disorder and that Satan had directed him to destroy the monument.

The ACLU had planned to sue to get the monument removed. Arkansas's plainly sectarian government plans to rebuilt it, presumably surrounded by concrete pilings. Read the rest

Top Vatican official charged with mutiple child sex offenses

Cardinal George Pell, former Archbishop of Sydney and Australia's most senior figure in the Catholic Church, was charged with child sex offenses Thursday by the state of Victoria.

Pell currently resides in the Vatican, according to The Guardian, where he is the third-highest ranking church official.

Last year, citing ill health, Pell declined to return to Australia to give evidence to the royal commission on child sexual abuse in person last year and instead gave evidence by videolink from Rome. He voluntarily participated in an interview with Victorian police officers in Rome last October over the alleged sexual assaults.

In February this year the Australian Senate called on the cardinal to return home “to assist the Victorian police and office of public prosecutions with their investigation into these matters”.

Pell dismissed the parliamentary resolution as “an interference on the part of the Senate in the due process of the Victoria police investigation.”

Pell is a former archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne. Since 2014 Pell has been prefect of the secretariat for the economy, the Vatican’s treasurer..

A keen test of Pope Francis's pretensions. Read the rest

Canon Jesus was way better than fandom Jesus

Lauralot points out that the Jesus of the Bible doesn't have much in common with the right-wing, evangelical Christ -- canon Jesus was "a brown Jew in the Middle East, conceived out of wedlock in an arguably interracial if not interspecies (deity and human) relationship, raised by his mother and stepfather in place of his absent father. He may not have had a Y chromosome. He spent his early youth as a refugee in Egypt, where his family no doubt survived initially on handouts from the wealthy." Read the rest

Miracle calf in India born with "human" face!

Holy cow! A calf in Uttar Pradesh, India was born with a human face, leading some people to worship it as an incarnation of the god Vishnu. Unfortunately, the animal died an hour after birth. From India.com:

Unfortunately, the deformed calf could not survive and died in an hour, but that did not stop the locals from celebrating the birth of the cow with a human face, which they believe is an incarnation of God. They believe the dead calf is the ‘Gokaran’, 24 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. In fact, the religious believers now plan to build a temple for him.

Raja Bhaiya Mishra, 55, the manager of the cow shelter (where the animal was born), was quoted saying, ‘It’s a miracle that the calf was born in this shelter. Thousands of people have been here to see it. We will be cremating him in three days, and a temple will be built for him. This avatar has most definitely created a devotion feeling amongst the people.’

Read the rest

The Realist: trenchant, beautifully surreal Israeli comics about a sweet and complicated existence

Asaf Hanuka is a celebrated Israeli cartoonist whose astonishing, surreal illustrations serve as counterpoint to sweet (sometimes too-sweet) depictions of his family life, his complicated existence as a member of a visible minority in Israel, the fear he and his family live with, and his own pleasures and secret shames -- a heady, confessional, autobiographical brew that has just been collected into The Realist: Plug and Play, the second volume of Hanuka's comics.

Powerful Russian Orthodox cleric summoned to spritz computers with holy water to fight ransomware

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is a powerful reactionary figure in the country's toxic political scene, which has welded a tale of thwarted imperial destiny to a thin-skinned fundamentalist theology that can't bear the slightest sign of mockery; he's blamed ISIS on secularism and Pride parades and says that marriage equality literally heralds the imminent apocalypse. Read the rest

Irish police open blasphemy investigation into Stephen Fry for calling God an "utter maniac"

Living treasure and outspoken atheist Stephen Fry has a classic bit from a two-year-old episode of RTE's "The Meaning of Life" in which he answers the question, "What would you say to God if you died and found yourself at the gates of heaven?" Read the rest

New edition of The Book of Miracles, the 16th century's premier guide to the apocalypse

The Book of Miracles (also known as the Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs) is a compendium of beautiful 16th-century illustrations of cosmic anxiety and apocalyptic surrealism. The new edition from Taschen, edited by Till-Holger Borchert and Joshua P Waterman, is a perfect introduction to the Renaissance obsession with signs, portents and the damned weird. Read the rest

Jesus appears in the clouds above Colombian city after catastrophe

Earlier this month, landslides in Manizales, Colombia killed 17 people and devastated the city. As emergency workers and citizens responded to the tragedy, some people reportedly noticed the clouds part and a beam of sunlight form into the figure of Jesus.

"‘Jesus’ Appears Over Landslide-Stricken Colombian City" (Mysterious Universe)

Read the rest

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