Our interview with the Commissionare for Human rights of the Council of Europe
New Book by CFI’s President, The Necessity of Secularism, Now Available
Just in time for the War on Christmas, CFI’s president and CEO Ron Lindsay has released a book that makes a powerful case for a cornerstone of our mission. In The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What To Do, Ron writes that only by fully embracing secularism can societies enjoy meaningful democracy and hope for peaceful resolution of disputes. With the world embroiled in religious conflicts, the book argues that secularism should be pursued by all parties, religious and nonreligious alike, to ensure equal protection and respect. You can read more about the book in the CFI newsletter - below.
Man is essentially a dreamer, wakened sometimes for a moment by some peculiarly obtrusive element in the outer world, but lapsing again quickly into the happy somnolence of imagination.
(Bertrand Russell, Dreams and Facts, 1916)
What Are the Arguments Against Religion?
A. C. Grayling on the Case for Humanism
Anthony Clifford "A. C." Grayling (born 3 April 1949) is an English philosopher. In 2011 he founded and became the first Master of New College of the Humanities, an independent undergraduate college in London. Until June 2011, he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, where he taught from 1991. He is also a supernumerary fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford.
In "The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism" he counters the arguments for the existence of God, and puts forward humanism as an alternative to religion.
Grayling is concerned with tone. He claims to have written the first book "thoroughly and calmly to examine all the arguments offered in support of religious beliefs", such as the ontological argument for the existence of God, which he argues against in the first half of the book.
In the other half, he proposes humanism as a suitable substitute of religion for a moral life or what he calls a "good life". According to his definition of humanism, if you believe that moral choices should be grounded in "the responsible use of reason" and "human experience in the real world" then you are a humanist.
With 29.8 million people enslaved today1, the curse of modern slavery is a significant barrier to the wellbeing and economic prosperity of the world at large. Victims of modern slavery are often prevented from receiving an education, receive little or no pay, and cannot speak or move freely. This is not only a grave injustice for those experiencing these conditions but the knock on effects are unfathomable — the world is missing out on the potential of millions of people.
Unbelievably, ending modern slavery is not yet a clear priority in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals — a transformative action plan which will help shape governments’ policies for years to come.2
Countries who agreed to the last set of goals — the Millennium Development Goals — achieved some remarkable things. Together, they halved global poverty, and halved the proportion of people who lack an adequate water supply.3 Imagine what could be achieved if they committed to ending modern slavery.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said, “I want this to be the most inclusive global development process the world has ever known”.4 Call on him to ensure ending modern slavery is prioritised in the Sustainable Development Goals.
In the early hours of 7 August 2012 Claudia Medina woke to the frightening sound of marines breaking into her home in Veracruz City, Mexico.
With her hands bound and a blindfold covering her eyes, the mother of three, who makes a living as a natural medicine salesperson, was taken to a local naval base.
Over the next few days, Claudia suffered terrible torture at the hands of government forces, including electric shocks and sexual abuse, being wrapped in plastic, beaten and kicked. Her torturers even forced chilli sauce up her nose with a syringe.
Join the global movement to get justice for Claudia.
Bertrand Russell is our favourite humanist philosopher. In this short video he shares some of his thoughts on faith in God. It is very little, but don't worry, we will soon add a few of his brilliant essays.
Since the days of Britain's colonial rule of India, there has been a law on the books forbidding sexual relations "against the order of nature," which is generally interpreted to be gay sex. Violating this law can mean up to ten years in prison.
In 2009, a New Delhi high court ruled the law unconstitutional. Late last year, however, the Supreme Court opted to reinstate it -- thereby furthering a culture of fear, pain and loneliness among India's LGBT citizens.
The Indian Parliament has the power to repeal this discriminatory law . Tell the Parliament to repeal India's anti-gay law immediately!
HOW PIGLET AND YOUNG HEDGEHOG WERE SEARCHING FOR GOD AND WHAT HAS FOLLOWED FROM THEIR SEARCH
This is our newest publucation and probably the first atheist book for little children.
Police investigate photo of little girl with Catholic death threat face paint
(Christian love in practice)
The young girl is photographed with a Union flag painted on her cheek and "KAT" in red, white and blue on her head. The photograph, which emerged on social media and republican websites, is believed to have been taken during an Eleventh night bonfire in north Belfast.
The slogans "KAT" ("Kill All Taigs") or "ATAT" ("All Taigs Are Targets") commonly appear in graffiti in loyalist areas in Northern Ireland.
A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman added: "Police have received a report, enquiries will be carried out to establish if any offenses have been committed."
Watch the video to see how the institution of the European Union meet their obligation to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with philosophical and non-confessional organisations.
Number one on the list of best atheist songs by Phil Zuckerman!
(We prefer his films to his books)
The Root of All Evil? - The God Delusion 1
The Root of All Evil? - The Virus of Faith (2)
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN POLAND? DAVID OST: REGIME CHANGE IN POLAND, CARRIED OUT FROM WITHIN
The article by David Ost gives the adequate picture of the current political situation in Poland. For our foreign readers we have addeed a few comments and pieces of information that should help you understand the situation even better. Let us make, however, one proviso: the strong criticism of the current, authoritarian government , does not mean that the fomer one was really good. On the contrary, it is its so called "policy of warm water in a tap" that was a cause of strong social frustration an desire for change that encouraged many people to support the populist. The "policy of wam water in a tap" means that the former government was simply satisfied with the situation and entirely neglected nearly all serious social problems. They did not, however, violate the main values and norms of liberal democracy and in the last months of their rule they even adopted some good laws and government programs. The current ruling "mafia" (the president, government and the informal but all-powerful "chief" or "duce" Kaczynski) are totally unacceptable, even if some specific regulations they promise might be worth our support.
On 30 November, The European Commission registered "Wake up Europe" - the citizens' initiative to protect democracy in Europe !
Since 2010, the Hungarian government has repeatedly taken antidemocratic and xenophobic measures that openly violate the basic principles of the rule of law and European democratic values.
This is why the committee of seven EU citizens has launched an initiative to urge the European Commission (EC) to stand firmly against Hungary and to bring the issue to the Council.
More specifically, we ask the EC to trigger Article 7 of the Treaty on the EU against Hungary. This article enables the Council to determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of EU democratic values as referred to in Article 2 TEU: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. Article 7 may then lead to sanctions against the concerned Member State, including the suspension of its voting rights at the Council. With this initiative, we also want to raise awareness on the increasing breaches of human rights happening on the European soil.
We are pleased to inform you that the president of our organization, Andrzej Dominiczak, is one of those seven EU citizens who have launched the initiative. We do not want to remove Hungary from the EU family. On the contrary, we would like to draw our Hungarian friends closer to the heart of Europe and its democratic values, so that they enjoy more rights and liberties and have happier lives.
EUROPEAN HUMANIST FEDERATION: DON'T LET THEM KILL THE VALUES WE ARE PROUD OF!
We wholeheartedly support the statement adopted by our friends from the European Humanist Federation. There is only one minor point we would like to clarify. Despite popular myth, it is not quite true that "Poles are already turning their back on refugees". Numerous studies (including the one by Eurostat) have shown that in Poland more people are open to accepting refugees that in any of our neighbouring countries, including Germany. Of course, still many are against for various reasons, mostly financial, and there is no doubt that we have thosands of noisy and hateful rasists. The main problem, however, is our new, catholic and authoritarian government, though on the other hand one should remember that it was elected only by 20 per cent of people. It does not mean that all the rest are refugees freindly, of course, but despite fears and many internal problems majority are to greater or lesser degree.
If there are among my readers any young men or women who aspire to
become leaders of thought in their generation, I hope they will avoid
certain errors into which I fell in youth for want of good advice.
When I wished to form an opinion upon a subject, I used to study it,
weigh the arguments on different sides, and attempt to reach a
balanced conclusion. I have since discovered that this is not the way
to do things.
Over the last year or so, I have written several times about the impressive growth of secularization and atheization in Poland. Practically all studies, including those conducted by the Catholic Church, confirm this diagnosis but it's only recently that I have compared the data reflecting this process with that from the Netherlands, UK and USA of the decades, when these countries were going through similar processes.
The result of this comparison is surprising, to say the least.
FIVE REASONS WE OWE IT TO CHILDREN TO TEACH THEM ABOUT HUMANISM
Growing number of children and young people have serious doubts about the tenets of religious faith or do not believe in god at all. Moral and philosophical teachings of religion are mostly found to be so unreasonable or even harmful that they are hardly able to help people to guide and make sense of their lives. We welcome these changes but at the same time we think that young people need new, more adequate worldview and system of values that would be acceptable or even attractive to them. We do agree with our British friends that humanism is the best we can offer.
Compared with other OECD countries, Brazil and the Russian Federation, Poland performs well in only a
few of the 11 dimensions mentioned above that the OECD considers as essential to a good life. Poland
ranks above the average of the 36 countries in the dimensions of personal security, education and skills,
civic engagement and social connections, but below average in health status, work-life balance, income
and wealth, subjective well-being, jobs and earnings, environmental quality, and housing.
We have promised to add more essays by Bertrand Russell. Here comes the first one: an elegant and in-depth but brief and "reader-freindly" discussion of the one of the most fundamental questions. Must read, indeed!
IMPRESSIVE GROWTH OF ATHEIZATION AND SECULARIZATION IN POLAND
According to the most recent (February 2015) study by CBOS (Public Opinion Research Center), since 2005, i.e. the death of pope John Paul II, the number of Poles who identify themselves as non-believers doubled from 4% to 8%. In the same period, the proportion of strong believers fell from 12% to 8%. Similarly, religious practices were on a
relatively stable level in the years 1997-2005, but declined after the death of John Paul II ...
On 12 September 2014, Poland's parliament rejected the bill to criminalize sexual education on the ridiculous plea that it contributes to spreading pedophilia. 264 MPs voted against it. Ultra conservatives have lost again. (In recent years, they have tried twice but failed to outlaw abortion totally). Poland is still far from being a liberal and secular country, but relatively new secularizing tendency is quite stable and is getting visibly stronger.
PETER SINGER: THE FREEDOM TO RIDICULE RELIGION AND DENY THE HOLOCAUST
Only 3% of Polish people consider personal freedom important. This includes the freedom of thougfht, speech and conscience - disregarded equally by most believers and non-believers.
We publish this important article by Peter Singer to give you an idea of how strongly we value these freedoms and related civil liberties. Indeed, in recent months, fostering individual freedom among the religious and non-religious has become our mission and one of the most important chores.
We do not recommend offending anyone, we do, however, defend our right to express any opinion or make fun of religion as of any other irrational, false or harmful belief. It does not mean that we would spread all of them. We do not like primitive pranks on any subject, particularly when they are played on the faithful in their places of worship. But outside, as we say in Polish: "there is no hell, let your spirit fly".
FALLING NUMBERS OF PILGRIMS IN POLAND
(CURRENT COMMENTARY - AUGUST 2014)
This August (2014), the number of faithful who took part in 59 pilgrimages
to Jasna Gora monastery in southern Poland, was 30 per cent lower
(73.4 thousand) than in 2004, when 103.3 thousand participated.
These numbers are reduced almost every year. In 2009, there were 84.9
thousand of pilgrims, and in the last year - 75.1 thousand.
Sociologists explain (and we agree with them) that it is the symptom of progressive secularization in Poland, but emphasize that to some
degree it may also be the result of a demographic change, as in recent years
the percentage of young people has decreased, and it is they who
constitute the largest group of pilgrims.
JOANNA KARAUSZ: REFORMING HEARTS AND MINDS: THE EDUCATIONAL REFORMS OF THE POLISH ENLIGHTENMENT
Poland's distinct history did not exclude it from experiencing the blossoming of liberal
ideology during the Enlightenment but it did, however, use the ideology in a very different way
than most of Europe. In France, monarchs, especially Louis XIV, ensured that the nobles were at
their service and dependent on their good will. Power had become so centralized that revolution
broke out as personal liberties were compromised. The ideology of the Enlightenment
and its proposed reforms served to loosen the grip of absolute monarchy and ensure more people
with natural freedom. Poland saw the opposite; the widened gap between the nobility and the
peasantry caused some to be incredibly rich and powerful while others devastatingly poor and
powerless. Ironically, the cause of such disparity was a political system, based on the so called golden
liberties embraced by Polish gentry known as the szlachta, throughout much of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries. The Enlightenment in Poland was a way to combat the 'golden
liberties' that were more harmful than helpful. Reformers used the same ideology that granted
civil liberties to the French in order to centralize the government and inspire nationalism in
Whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Sikh, there is one common belief that all religious fundamentalists share: worship of God and obedience to his laws are essential for a peaceful, healthy society. From Orthodox rabbis in the occupied West Bank to Wahhabi sheiks in Saudi Arabia, from the pope in Vatican City to Mormons in Salt Lake City, the lament is the same: God and his will must be at the center of everyone's lives in order to ensure a moral, prosperous, safe, collective existence. The author, eminent sociologist, shows, that these believes shared by numerous cultured non-believres are entirely false!
BARBARA STANOSZ: PHILOSOPHER AND CITIZEN (OBITUARY)
Barbara Stanosz, professor emeritus at the University of Warsaw, Poland, died on 7 June 2014. A philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition, Professor Stanosz wrote some excellent handbooks of formal logic and translated into Polish works by Bertrand Russell, Rudolf Carnap, Willard VO Quine, Richard B. Brandt, Daniel C. Dennett, Donald Davidson and other contemporary empiricists and philosophers of language.
ANDRZEJ DOMINICZAK: CURRENT COMMENTARY (2 June 2014)
You may have learned that approx. 3000 Polish physicians signed a "declaration of faith" in which it is inter alia stated that they shall treat patients "putting god's law before man's". No doubt, this act of religious fundamentalism is hopelessly unwise but you should be aware that Poland is a relatively populous country and this 3000 signatures means that the declaration has been signed by just 1,2 per cent of Polish doctors and students of medicine (the appeal to sign it was addressed to both groups and signatures have been collected since 5 March 2014). I wonder, what would be the percentage of doctors and students in USA, Malta or Ireland who would sign a similar declaration?
Moreover, the declaration does not change much, as many catholic physicians have refused to perform abortion or prescribe birth control pills for many years. Now, they have just publicly expressed their views.
I am not saying we should not be concerned at all about that kind of symptoms of religious fanaticism, but let's not get hysterical - this is just 1,2 per cent of students and medics - the number surprisingly low in a legendary stronghold of Catholicism.
ANDRZEJ DOMINICZAK: SECULARIZATION OR CLERICALIZATION? WHAT IS HAPPENING IN POLAND?
The studies on religiosity conducted in recent years in Poland have
revealed two coexisting, though contradictory processes. On the one
hand, secularization progresses, slowly but unceasingly:
religious faith is weakening and participation in church activities
is shrinking. On the other hand, however, one poll after another has
shown rapidly growing support for the policy of the Catholic Church
and its flagship political spoils, as the ban on abortion, the
presence of the crucifix in the parliament or the refusal to legalize
civil gay unions.
Probably the first lecture in defence of atheism written and delivered in 1861 by Ernestyna Potowska Rose - a Polish Jewish feminist, abolitionist and of course an atheist. We consider her to be probably the first humanist in today's sense of the term. Wonderful woman!
PAVEL MESTAN. ALEXAANDER REHAK: CHURCH AND FASCISM IN SLOVAKIA
Rising apprehension has been expressed by democratic, particularly secular, parts of Slovak society over an ever-growing propagation of fascism in Slovakia.
An interesting article about the Catholic Church in Slovakia - one of the mian actors involved in attempts to exculpate fascism.
The "Women's Hell" is the title of the collection of essays written by Tadeusz Boy-¯eleñski and published in Poland in 1929. Its author, a Polish writer, translator and medical doctor, touchingly described the misery of women, mostly impoverished women, deprived of their reproductive rights. Read the following articles to find out what is the situation today, almost one hundred years later.
We are not particularly patriotic byt we suppose that quite a few of our visitors are particularly interested in Polish affairs as seen from humanist or atheist perspectives. So in this section you may find more information and comments about contemporary Poland. The following articles and reports come from various sources but cover the fields of particular interest to secular humanist, so we hope you will find them worth reading. You may expect more and more diverse articles about Poland in the near future.
The questions of humanist identity, self-concept and definition are sometimes regarded as major flaws of the humanist movement. Their vagueness and ambiguity, however, though unattractive to tabloid paople and their media, may - we hope - appeal to those of our kin: who are reflective rather than unthoughtful, who prefer cognitive complexity to bombastic simplicity and who like to talk rather than shout or deliver speeches. Ambiguity of humanism seems also relevant to the ambiguity of our own selves, so searching for the meaning of humanism is closely related to searching for our selves - a very humanist thing to do. If you like to think before you act, you will probably enjoy the following articles.
Women, their rights and liberteis, are the main victims of religion, while women constitute the majority of believers and practitioners in all - except judaism - religions of the world.
It is one of oue main concerns, so we have decided to create a new, bilingual (Polish and English), website entirely devoted to women and religion.
Psychologists from the University of British Columbia have found that simply looking at "The Thinker" by August Rodin can weaken faith in God and in the case of feeble faith can even lead to atheism. If - however - for any reason whatsoever, you want to watch an enlarged version of the above image or show it to someone:
This is an abridged version of a documentary produced by Centre Laique Audiovisuelle and devoted mainly to the role of the Catholic Church in infringing the rights of women in several European countries - particularly in Poland.
Apart from the well known restrictions on abortion and other reproductive rights, the documentary reveals briefly the hideus role of Catholic Church in defending the traditional family - the collective considered far more important than the basic rights of its members, particularly women, even if they are victims of most extreme forms of abuse ast the hands of their husbands.
FREE INQUIRY is the hard-hitting bimonthly journal of the Council for Secular Humanism. From world-class columnists to thought-provoking cover features to commentaries from every branch of the secular humanist movement, FREE INQUIRY has it all ... and for the first time, every word of the current issue is available online. To access online content (including full text of the current issue and selected items from issues going back to 1996).
SKEPTICAL INQUIRER is the official journal of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Six times per year Skeptical Inquirer publishes critical scientific evaluations of all manner of controversial and extraordinary claims, including but not limited to paranormal and fringe-science matters, and informed discussion of all relevant issues. In addition to news, articles, book reviews, and investigations on a wide variety of topics, Skeptical Inquirer has a stellar stable of regular columnists including Joe Nickell ("Investigative Files"), Massimo Polidoro ("Notes on a Strange World"), Massimo Pigluicci ("Thinking About Science"), Robert Sheaffer ("Psychic Vibrations"), and SI managing editorBenjamin Radford's reader-driven ("The Skeptical Inquiree"). Yale University neurologist Steven Novella, M.D., founder of the New England Skeptical Society and executive editor of the Science-Based Medicine blog, contributes a new "The Science of Medicine" column, and contributing editor Kenneth W. Krause adds a regular science column, "ScienceWatch
Most interesting documentary based on talks with 8 renowned philosophers, including Peter Siinger - one of our favourite thinkers. We do not agree with everything they say but most of it is certainly worth pondering.
Saudi Arabia Tries to Silence Center for Inquiry at UN Human Rights Council
This past Sunday something incredible happened: at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, CFI representative Josephine Macintosh delivered a powerful statement forcefully condemning Saudi Arabia for its persecution of political and religious dissidents and calling for their immediate release.
It was too much for Saudi Arabia to take. Their representative, with panic in his voice, tried three times to shout Josephine down, repeatedly demanding that the Council president "shut her up!"
Josephine never backed down, despite Saudi intimidation, and as they protested, she received the vocal support of the representatives from four member states: The U.S., Ireland, Canada, and France, all of whom spoke up for her right to continue speaking.
PSYCHOLOGY OF ATHEISM
Psychologist Dr. Paul Vitz (PhD in Psychology from Stanford University) speaks on a number of influential atheists (like Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sigmund Freud, etc.) and how they may have become atheists. It ends up that many of these atheists had abusive or weak fathers who influenced the way the saw God. Highly insightful and interesting!
16 year-old Amina Filali, raped, beaten and forced to wed her rapist, killed herself -- the only way she saw to escape the trap set for her by her rapist and the law. If we act now, we can stop this unspeakable tragedy from happening to anyone else.
Article 475 in Morocco’s penal code allows a rapist to avoid prosecution and a long prison sentence by marrying his victim if she is a minor. Since 2006, the government has promised to strike this down and pass legislation prohibiting violence against women, but it hasn't happened.
MYTH OF CHASTITY BELT
According to tradition, the use of chastity belts – metallic straps locked over female genitalia with padlocks—dates back to the time of the Crusades, when knights in- departure for the Holy Land supposedly used them to ensure their wives' fidelity in their absence. Recent studies, however, show that such instruments were never in use during the Middle Ages.
Many suggest that Hitler did not hold a traditional belief in God because he believed that he was God. True, Hitler thought himself God’s chosen leader for the Aryan race. But he never claimed to be divine, and never presented himself in that manner to his followers. Members of the Wehrmacht swore this loyalty oath: “I swear by God this holy oath to the Führer of the German Reich and the German people, Adolf Hitler.” For Schutzstaffel (S.S.) members it was: “I pledge to you, Adolf Hitler, my obedience unto death, so help me God.”