Weekly Link Roundup

• Despite the good sense shown by the British Medical Association in lambasting homeopathy at their annual conference last month, the UK National Health Service has announced that it will still pay for water and sugar pills passed off as medicine.

• A court in Utah has thrown out the rape conviction of Mormon cult leader Warren Jeffs, due to a legal technicality, and ordered that the case be retried. Texas is still seeking to have him extradited to face similar charges, so it seems likely that he’ll ultimately face justice.

• I was shocked to read of some ultra-Orthodox Israeli communities that are so extreme, they demand that their women wear burqas so as not to arouse the passions of men.

A Liberty University graduate defends the separation of church and state.

• In more welcome news, the U.K. education secretary has said he’s interested in proposals for atheist schools, after Richard Dawkins made such a proposal in response to a law allowing faith-based and community groups to open their own publicly funded schools. And why not? If every church in England has its own schools – the article mentions Anglican, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu – why shouldn’t there be atheist schools that teach students rationality and critical thinking?

The FLDS Cult Is Unraveling
Friday Night Music: First Aid Kit
SF/F Saturday: Terry Pratchett’s Death
Atlas Shrugged: Bring Me a New Black Guy
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Katie M

    My kids (should I ever have any) will be going overseas for their education, I can see.

  • Zietlos

    Reading the last one, I can’t help but think of the Simpsons episode about public school and religion, with Schalmer getting angry and shouting “This is a public school! God has no place within these walls!”

  • DSimon

    We shouldn’t have to have specifically “atheist schools” to teach rationality and critical thinking. Atheism is included within those topics, rather than the other way around; it’s not analagous to religious schools that view all knowledge as being part of understanding God.

    Ideally I think we’re best off focusing on getting rationality more included in regular public school classes, but founding nominally “rationalist” (or perhaps “humanist”) schools might also be very helpful. Starting up nominally “atheist” schools probably would not.

    On the other hand, I can definitely see the value in atheist summer camps. So maybe I’m being inconsistent… I need to think about it some more.

  • Sarah Braasch

    I agree with DSimon.

    I don’t think this is helpful at all.

    I think it feeds into the religionists’ view of atheism as an alternative religious position.

    It is decidedly anything but.

  • Mathew Wilder

    @#2: FYI, it’s “Chalmers” :D

    And for anyone who doesn’t know, that quote ends with a fantastic barb: “Just like facts have no place within organized religion.”

  • Alex Weaver

    I think there might be a case for “Freethought Schools” and “Humanist Schools”; “Atheist schools” specifically doesn’t seem like they’d sell themselves very well. A lot of people, even some atheists, will figure the curriculum consists of “welp, still no God this week. Class dismissed!”

  • Rollingforest

    I read an article recently about a Ivy league school, Harvard I believe, which was going to include religion in its list of required courses for students. This caused the science professors to protest.

    The ironic thing, though, is that it seems to me that people who take comparative religions courses are much less likely to end up evangelical than those who simply go through school without the college addressing the issue. Comparative religion teaches people that other faiths are very similar to theirs. This undermines the exclusivity of that person’s faith which causes them to question why they picked that particular faith at all. This eventually leads some of them to questioning why they follow faith at all.

  • Sarah Braasch

    This I like:

    “I would prefer to call it a free-thinking free school,” he said.
    “I would never want to indoctrinate children in atheism, any more than in religion.
    “Instead, children should be taught to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded.”

    But, this is what we should be doing in all public schools, sans religion.

    In undergrad, while I was still clinging to some vestiges of my cultic indoctrination, I took a comparative religions course, and I think you’re absolutely right. It was shocking to me to learn that this professor had studied all of the so-called sacred texts as literature, in their respective cultural and historical contexts, and it disabused me of many of the notions of authenticity, which I had been loathe to relinquish.

    I remember when he called my use of the word tetragrammaton, of which I was unduly proud, pseudo intellectual cocktail banter.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Of course, everyone should learn all about all of the world’s major religions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it would be a huge gaping hole in one’s education not to do so. Learning that others hold their religious beliefs in the same esteem as you hold yours, and that those beliefs are diametrically opposed to one another, is an undeniably eye-opening experience.

    But, there is a gulf between learning about religion and practicing / proselytizing / celebrating a particular religion.

  • Gary

    I don’t know anyone who went to a Catholic school who isn’t an atheist.

    What religion will graduates of atheist schools choose?

  • DSimon
  • Emburii

    You might want to look at your third link there; the article cited actually details how even devout Jewish communities are trying to restrict and protest the burqa, not demand its use. Some of the women in the community are wearing them, but the rabbinical authorities mentioned are alarmed by the trend and see it as a situation of ‘sexual fetishism’ that should be rectified.

  • Jeff


    I was shocked to read of some ultra-Orthodox Israeli communities that are so extreme, they demand that their women wear burqas so as not to arouse the passions of men.

    I have no love for the Haredim (“ultra-Orthodox”), but in fairness, this isn’t a requirement of their communities. This was started by the wife of one rabbi in one town in Israel that’s largely Haredi. Apparently, she has a following among some of the other women, and she began telling them to wear burquas. According to the article, even their husbands are alarmed, and asked the rabbis to intervene.

    Ramat Bet Shemesh, the town in question, is the source of a whole lotta crazy, but in this instance, it’s only one woman. Unfortunately, it’s spreading – one of the many indicators that their entire subculture, both here and in Israel, is collapsing.

  • John Nernoff

    Perhaps the best way to teach “atheism” and, as S.B. says, “Instead, children should be taught to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded” would be to briefly class the students in all the major religions and the ridiculous discrepancies between them. This would amount to a self-completing education in the utter failure of theism and lead to irrepressible doubt with regard to superstition in all its forms.

    The problem possibly would remain that most teachers are theists and would be reluctant to be critical of their own faith.

  • Eurekus

    Atheist schools. Damn we need these in Australia. In Queensland our stupid state government pays for fundamentalist chaplains to be available in state schools. Prior to my full deconversion I attended one of their kids camps. What did they teach? The theory of evolution was nothing but an attempt to cause disbelief on the fact that there is a creator God. Suffice to say, straight after that camp I decided to make my atheism known.

    Hopefully our new atheist PM will stay in power after the upcoming federal election and give an example of rationality to our kids.