Is Worldwide Discrimination Against Atheists Really Getting Worse? Big Report From Humanist Organization Says Yes

As much as I appreciate and sometimes admire the work of think tanks and advocacy groups, I’m automatically a bit leery of what they have to say.

If your job is, for example, to advocate against sexual violence, and the time comes to write your organization’s annual report, you’d probably have a hard time concluding that things are getting better instead of worse. Understandably, perhaps, you’d look at one set of sexual-assault stats (let’s say, the National Crime Victimization Survey, which claims that the incidence of rape is relatively low), and you might decide that the Department of Justice Campus Sexual Assault Study, which proclaims rape to be almost epidemic, better fits what you believe to be the truth.

This confirmation bias is all around us (there are no doubt instances of it on this very site). Whatever the statistical trend, I don’t think you’ll ever hear Greenpeace executives say that this year, humankind has made great strides in avoiding ecological disaster. Nor are you likely to hear the folks at the American Enterprise Institute touting studies that show that the government has shrunk, and that the free market is on an inexorable upswing.

Too much is wrapped up in continuing the narrative that things are, from the organization’s standpoint, getting worse. A good dose of pessimism, whether warranted or not, does at least six internally beneficial things:

  • Preserves the ideological message within the organization (“we’re fighting the good fight”);
  • Makes its workers and followers more cohesive (“we’re all in this good fight together”);
  • Makes workers and followers more motivated (“the organization needs my moral and intellectual support”);
  • Helps greatly with fundraising (“the organization needs my financial support”);
  • May therefore allow the organization to grow its payroll or projects, or both;
  • Increases the organization’s access to news media (because bad news “sells” better than good news).

This little riff is not meant to disparage the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), which yesterday released a 539-page report — the real subject of this post — on how the rights of non-religious people are under increasing attack.

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Orthodox Church Rejects Evil “Eye of Sauron” Atop Moscow Building, Sees Tolkien Homage as a “Triumph of Evil”

If you’ve ever read Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you’ll remember the Eye of Sauron,

… a giant flaming eye controlled by the “dark lord” Sauron, which allows him to watch anyone who puts on the fateful, power-giving ring at the novels’ center.

Tomorrow, a real-estate company in Russia plans to install something resembling it (but without the magic powers, presumably) on the top of a 21-story building in Moscow. As the art installation will be only about three feet high, the effect should be slightly underwhelming — a bit like Spinal Tap’s mini-Stonehenge, perhaps — but that hasn’t prevented the Russian Orthodox Church from flying into a tizzy.

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Is This the Worst Fire-and-Brimstone Preacher on YouTube?

Judging by the quality of the recording and the clothes and hairstyles of the worshipers, this video of an American preacher addressing his congregation could be some 30 years old. It just surfaced on YouTube the other day.

It’s hard to fathom that anyone would sit through this voluntarily, without protest, and without bursting out laughing. But as we see towards the end, the pastor has his entire flock eating out of his hand.

In any social setting but a religious one, what this man says, and how he says it, would likely be grounds for a mental evaluation. People would say, “I worry about him,” and “I feel terrible for his family,” or maybe “What’s the number for Bellevue?”

In church, however, what’s objectively crazy stops being crazy. It doesn’t just become normal — it becomes vitally important and sacred and revered, and they’ll tell you that just about the worst thing you can do is laugh about it and mock it.

Screw it, let’s laugh anyway:

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Finally, a (Mormon) Porn Site Where Fictional LDS Leaders “Stuff Magic Underwear In Each Other’s Mouths”

I borrowed that laugh-out-loud line from the aptly named Vice; the site has a story on Mormon-themed porn, claiming that it’s a booming business.

Getting off on watching Mormons doing the dirty is a very specific taste, obviously, but catering to such niches is currently where the (porn) money is.

The founder of the pay site, the pseudonymous Legrand Wolf,

had his first locker-room experience at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. …

“Getting ready for my mission, I was finally exposed to [naked dudes] and I figured it out pretty quickly,” he told me. “But then I was around all these straight hot men, and I had to hide the fact that I was gay despite all this intimacy.”

Wolf eventually had sex with his mission trip partner, which the Mormons suggestively enough call a “companion.” After months of dropped hints and excruciating build-up, Wolf’s sexy French partner finally put the moves on him and they developed a loving relationship. Although his former companion is now married with kids, Wolf says their affair — and the sexual tension leading up to it — changed his life. At the very least, it’s the inspiration for ​, the only gay porn site that caters to some very specific religious fantasies.

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Times Columnist Tom Friedman Claims ISIS Repels Muslim Youths, and Turns Some Toward Atheism

I hope Thomas Friedman is right:

The Islamic State has visibly attracted young Muslims from all over the world to its violent movement to build a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. But here’s what’s less visible — the online backlash against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, by young Muslims declaring their opposition to rule by Islamic law, or Shariah, and even proudly avowing their atheism. Nadia Oweidat, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, who tracks how Arab youths use the Internet, says the phenomenon “is mushrooming — the brutality of the Islamic State is exacerbating the issue and even pushing some young Muslims away from Islam.”

Last month, sounded a similarly optimistic note:

“A growing social media conversation in Arabic is calling for the implementation of Shariah, or Islamic law, to be abandoned. Discussing religious law is a sensitive topic in many Muslim countries. But on Twitter, a hashtag which translates as ‘why we reject implementing Shariah’ has been used 5,000 times in 24 hours. The conversation is mainly taking place in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The debate is about whether religious law is suitable for the needs of Arab countries and modern legal systems.

Friedman, for his part, also quotes the Moroccan activist Brother Rachid, an ex-Muslim who has embraced Christianity. Rachid’s YouTube address to President Obama is pretty excellent:

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