Hey, New Zealand, Stop Trying to Be Like America

Another public school. Another prayer. Another administrator who thinks those two things belong together.

The only surprising thing is that this is happening in Auckland, New Zealand.

At the beginning of the day at Kelston Intermediate School, students recite karakia — a Maori prayer. The principal doesn’t see anything wrong with that:

Kelston Intermediate principal Phil Gordon said he had no idea some staff were unhappy with karakia in the classroom until contacted by the union representative.

Gordon said he reassured the union representative the karakia was a cultural component of school life and an expression of beliefs that reflected the Kelston community.

“I guess what they might have been inquiring about is the presence of karakia, etc, within school so we talked about what we’re doing is not a religious thing but a cultural thing.”

Staff and pupils were free to abstain, he insisted. “I think perhaps there has been a mismatch in understanding.”

[Click headline for more…] [Read more...]

What Do Atheists Think Happens When We Die?

As I said yesterday, I’m working on a project with a local professor called The Atheist Voice in which I tackle some burning question people often ask atheists.

The video below answers the question: What happens when we die?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next! [Read more...]

How Do You Tell Your Parents You’re an Atheist?

I’m working on a project with a local professor called The Atheist Voice in which I tackle some burning question people often ask atheists… It’s more or less off-the-cuff, so you’ll have to forgive me if I missed saying something totally obvious or repeated myself, but we’re experimenting with this so you can be the judge of whether or not it’s useful.

The video below answers the question: How do you tell your parents you’re an atheist?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next! [Read more...]

Gov. Rick Perry: ‘Religious Freedom Does Not Mean Freedom From Religion’

We knew this was going to happen weeks ago but it’s finally official: You won’t be punished in Texas if you say “Merry Christmas” (everyone can breathe out now):

The bill, signed into law Thursday by Governor Rick Perry, promises that teachers and students can say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” or “happy holidays” without repercussion. Even though no one was ever stopping them from doing that…

Religious holiday displays will also be allowed, as long as they don’t overtly promote one particular religion (tough loopholes are everywhere):

[Click headline for more…] [Read more...]

This Woman is Being Denied U.S. Citizenship Because She’s an Atheist

On Thursday, I received an email from Chris Johnson, familiar to readers of this site because he’s been working on a multimedia book about atheists and what gives them joy and meaning in life.

It turned out his 64-year-old stepmother was applying to become an official U.S. citizen after living here for more than 30 years.

Part of the application asked her if she would “take up arms in defense of the United States” — join the military, in essence — and she responded, in part, like this:

… The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms. Since my youth I have had a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or in the bearing of arms. I deeply and sincerely believe that it is not moral or ethical to take another person’s life, and my lifelong spiritual/religious beliefs impose on me a duty of conscience not to contribute to warfare by taking up armsmy beliefs are as strong and deeply held as those who possess traditional religious beliefs and who believe in God

That bit at the end is what caught the eye of someone at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They told her that if she had a “conscientious objection,” it had to be on religious grounds, not moral ones.

Her atheism wasn’t good enough.

[Click headline for more…] [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X