Egyptian Apostate, Accused of Blasphemy, Wants to Flee Abroad: “Life Is Not Possible For Atheists Here”

Today, Karim al-Banna will learn if an appeals court has decided to affirm his three-year jail term for “insulting” Islam. If he doesn’t have to stay behind bars, Al-Banna, a former Muslim Brotherhood member who became an atheist, would like to leave the country. Egypt, he says, is a horribly inhospitable place for a non-believer.

All I want now is to leave Egypt. Life is not possible for atheists here,” the 23-year-old engineering student told AFP from his home in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. If he loses the appeal over his self-declared atheism on Facebook, Banna’s last resort would be Egypt’s cassation court. Arrested in November, he was released on bail after having spent 55 days behind bars. “It was like living in a tomb,” he said.

Even his own father betrayed him, testifying against his son to avoid being tainted by the “scandal” surrounding al-Banna.

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This Year, Religious Fraudsters Will Bag a Record $50 Billion — “a Huge Jump,” Says the Trinity Foundation

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon we’re talking about real money.

The Trinity Foundation noted that for 2015 alone it’s estimated that international religious fraud will exceed donations to global missions. “The researchers estimate 2015 missions funding at $45 billion, with religious fraud projected to exceed that at $50 billion, a huge jump over last year’s $39 billion,” stated the foundation.

Unfortunately, the Trinity Foundation (TTF) more or less shares its name with Trinity Broadcasting, the televangelism network founded by smarmy shyster Paul Crouch. To be clear, TTF is on the other end of the scale. The Dallas-based group, itself founded on Christian principles, is a time-tested religious-fraud watchdog that has brought down fraudulent TV preachers such as Robert Tilton (and not for excessive flatulence).

According to Friday’s article about TTF in the Christian Post,

… the foundation has decided to expand its investigations worldwide.

The plans are gestational and a bit vague, but I hope they come to fruition:

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On a Berlin Stage, Writers with Islamic-Sounding Names Turn Hate Mail Into Raucous Laughter

Watching the videos of Richard Dawkins reading his hate mail was an unexpected pleasure.

Sometimes, that’s the best you can do with nasty insults and vicious invective — defang them by spinning the tar into comedy gold. That’s exactly what these folks decided to do:

When it comes to you Muslims,” Hasnain Kazim tells the audience, “we Germans are going to pick up where we left off with the Jews. It would please me if the first time we meet is when your smoke is rising out of the chimney.”

You might expect such malignance to reap a stunned silence, or gasps.

But Kazim, a 40-year-old journalist with Spiegel Online, is treated to rollicking laughter and applause instead. This, after all, is Hate Poetry night in Berlin, an opportunity for a troupe of German journalists, all of whom have vaguely Muslim-sounding names, to read out some of the more creatively despicable messages clogging up their inboxes.

Disturbingly, each has plenty to choose from, and the fountain of hatred flows late into the evening, with insults like these: “I have nothing against Muslims as long as the only place they are staying is at the local cemetery.”

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Survey: U.S. Church Attendance Sinks to Record Low, but Prayer Is Still Resilient in the Age of the Nones

A survey research analyst who writes for the Washington Post asserts that, in America, religion is on the ropes. More precisely, Scott Clement says that

American religion is on the ropes, but it has a prayer.

A major poll whose results were released this past week, the 2014 General Social Survey, reveals that U.S. church attendance continues to fall.

A record-low share of Americans attend church regularly, affiliate with a religious faith and see themselves as religious. … The findings … mark a continuation of a decades-long departure from the pews along with a growing share who profess loyalty to no religion at all.

But reason isn’t truly taking over; prayer is going as strong as it was three decades ago.

Fully 57 percent of respondents said they pray at least once a day, little different from 54 percent in 1983, when the question was first asked on the survey. Three-quarters of respondents said they pray at least once a week, while 1 in 4 pray less often or never.

The poll has a margin of sampling error of 2.5 percentage points.

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French to Crack Down on Hate Speech, Including the Anti-Religious Kind, “In Much the Same Way [As] Pedophilia”

Recently, French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira announced that she wants the power to quash speech as she and her government see fit, stripping judicial niceties from the process of shutting people up, says Paris-based news outlet France24.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has said she will push for legal reforms that would help French authorities crack down on racism and anti-Semitism online in much the same way they do with pedophilia. The proposals include empowering French authorities to shut down websites hosting content that is deemed illicit without prior court approval.

“Crimes recognized in public spaces must also be recognized as such on the Internet,” Taubira [said], echoing other recent statements on combating terrorism. “Our challenge is to find the most appropriate responses, but we are determined to wage an unmerciful battle against racism and anti-Semitism on the Internet.”

Almost no one likes hate speech, but neither should the government of a modern, secular state be in the business of defining and targeting it… unless and until it rises to the level of incitement. It’s fairly easy to get people to agree (as do I) that racist and anti-Semitic invective should not be tolerated. For me, that means that sanctions should be social, from verbal pushback to full-throated rebuttals to ostracism.

Intemperate words and pictures are rarely, I think, a matter for the police or the courts.

Taubira’s well-intentioned but dangerous proposal has every likelihood of defining public discourse down to the comfort level of the most thin-skinned and vocal members of society. And I predict that this will please and benefit no group quite as much as French Muslims who believe that the Charlie Hebdo victims had it coming. The hate-speech crackdown will feel like vindication to them, and/or like a government-endorsed justification après la lettre.

Brendan O’Neill at Reason explains how illiberal France’s plan is:

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