The Sunny Skeptic: Surveying the Survey

crystal_small.jpgBy Crystal Dervetski

Recently, Minnesota Atheists sent out a survey to gauge interests and opinions of our membership. The response was absolutely overwhelming, mostly in a good way. There appear to be many questions regarding what Minnesota Atheists as an organization actually does, what we offer, and who we are as a group of people. I had already started answering some questions in previous articles. In one, I had discussed why we ask new members how they found out about Minnesota Atheists, and why they chose to become members, as there seemed to be some confusion in this area as well. Now that we have the survey data fairly complete, I'm going to start tackling some of the bigger issues that were brought up in the free form responses.

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Ireland's Blasphemy: A Relic of the Dark Ages

vic_head_small.jpgBy Vic Tanner

On July 9, the Republic of Ireland passed a law against material that is "abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion". Why would the government of an enlightened secular country choose to enact a blasphemy law at this point in history? Though many countries, some of which  may surprise you, still have blasphemy laws on the books, these laws are often vague to the point of meaninglessness and are seldom enforced. For instance, the Greek Penal Code defines a  blasphemer as "one who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes God" yet makes no attempt to clarify who "God" is or what these malicious acts may consist of. Whether these laws were intended to placate religious individuals or to protect religious institutions, they accomplish neither.

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Book Review: Disbelief 101

disbelief.jpgBy James Zimmerman

You're not going to learn anything new reading this book.  But that's not an indictment of the book, no, it's a comment on your age.  Disbelief is intelligently designed to appeal to the tween/early-teen crowd, and it does a superb job.  Indeed, it is the best book on the topic of disbelief available for young people.

The author begins right away (well, after an introduction by Tom Flynn) by assuring young people who may be nervous reading such a book that he understands their fears. S. C. Hitchcock (writing under a pseudonym for the safety of his family) tells such readers that, if they take nothing else from the book, and if they are unable or unwilling to read anything else, to remember that there is no God.  "Religion," he says, surely striking a nerve with everyone in his intended audience, "survives and is a huge force in the world because it relies on the indoctrination of children." It was this observation, Hitchcock noted in an interview, that drove him to write the book.

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Why Do Americans Fail To Understand Science?

rsutter01.gifBy Ryan Sutter

On July 10, Minnesota Public Radio Midmorning discussed the topic "New polls indicate a dim view of U.S. scientific achievement." The polls in question were from the Pew Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The short of it is, the vast majority of scientists (97%) accept that life evolved over time from a shared common ancestor but only 61% of the general public believes the same. On the topic of global warming, the divide is even greater. 84% of scientists are convinced that global warming is real and caused by human activity but only 49% of the public agrees.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: For Fans Only

By George Kane

President's Note:  This is a great example of the kinds of social events Minnesota Atheists host.  For those who think all we do is talk about atheism and religion, think again!  To learn about more events like this, sign up for Atheists Weekly Email.

Whenever possible I select for the fourth Wednesday Reel and Meal a movie of particular interest to the atheist community.  A few years ago, Christian parents were objecting to the Harry Potter books for glorifying the occult, and demanding that they be removed from school libraries, and lead actor Daniel Radcliffe has recently revealed that he is an atheist.  So when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came to Lagoon Cinema in July, it was a natural selection.  Ten of us turned out for the movie, after most of us enjoyed dinner across the street at Uptown Drink.

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