Americans United Files Brief Against Sectarian Prayers at City Council Meetings with Supreme Court

On November 6, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a case that could decide the fate of invocation prayers at city council meetings. (My summary of the case, the people involved, and the arguments they’ll likely make can be read here.)

Earlier today, Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed its official brief with the Court — all 78 pages of it — and they responded to the right-wing talking points right up front:

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Ask Richard: Speaking Truth to Grief: An Atheist Responds to His Bereaved Girlfriend

Dear Richard
 
My background: My name is Elliot and I am a 28 year-old guy living in London, UK. I am a teacher and have considered myself an atheist for the last 8 or so years. I am open but not preachy about my beliefs and encourage my pupils to make up their own minds. However I recently ran into a crisis of “faith”.
 
Last weekend my girlfriend’s 21 year-old brother committed suicide. It was not without warning as he had had over 10 years of mental health issues including chronic depression and had made 4 failed attempts in the past. Despite this it was sudden, and she was understandably devastated. They are not a religious family, however in her grief she asked me: “where do you think he is now?” I was at a loss for words as I have never really had to combine comforting someone with an expression of my views. To tell her that he is nowhere anymore, that he simply has stopped being, seemed callous and uncaring. I went with “he is in a better place” (kind of an an opt out) as I figured that not existing anymore must be better than 10 years of depression.
 
My question is this: How do you convey to someone, about whom you care deeply, that the person they have lost is simply dead? Nothing more? How do you make this sound okay? Religion, despite its delusions, does give people who choose it much peace-of-mind (assuming they are not considering the  hell option) and I was wondering how I could convey this through atheism.
 
Any advice would be very welcome.

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Project Reason Will Match All Donations to the Secular Student Alliance Over the Next Month, Up to $30,000

I’ve written a couple of times about the need for the Secular Safe Zone and why we need to make sure young atheists feel safe and comfortable in their non-religious identities:

Just a day after the Atlantic published a story on how some students were bullied for not believing in God, Sam Harris came through with a very exciting announcement: Project Reason, the non-profit group run by Harris and his wife, will be matching all donations to the Secular Student Alliance over the next month, up to $30,000.

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After Her Teacher Compared Atheism to Smoking (Saying Humans Naturally Rejected Both), a Young Atheist Took Action

The summer before Sara Sheppard began her senior year of high school in Katy, Texas, she took an Economics class. Her teacher was well-liked by the students but Sara noticed that he spent a lot of time talking about Christianity in the classroom:

As the semester went by I realized that his passion for passing on his knowledge was not focused on economics but focused on religion, prayer, and spirituality. Instead of teaching economics he would teach us that certain historical people were among the greatest because of their spiritual enlightenment. He also expressed to the students that it was human nature to have a spiritual and religious component, therefore making atheists unnatural and against human nature. This teacher went so far with this idea to even compare atheism to smoking and how the body originally rejects smoking just like “the mind rejects the concept of atheism.”

Even though she called him out on that last statement, explaining that he shouldn’t say things like that in the classroom, it didn’t change anything.

Reporting his conduct didn’t seem like a safe option — it could have made her a target of students and other teachers. So Sara did the next best thing.

She recorded the lectures with her iPhone.

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Chemical Engineering Student: ‘I Used Physics to Prove Gay Marriage Wrong’

Researchers at the University of Lagos in Nigeria have a new prodigy. His name is Chibuihem Amalaha, and he says he used a variety of scientific experiments to prove that same-sex marriage, now legal in 16 countries, is wrong:

A postgraduate student studying chemical engineering, Amalaha spoke with THISDAY Live, a leading newspaper in Nigeria, about his latest accomplishment and why he hopes it will earn him international recognition. And while hundreds of commenters question whether the article and even the publication are satirical, it seems he and his professors stand proudly by his work.

In the THISDAY article, misleadingly titled “Science of Gay Marriage,” Amalaha shares some of his past scientific discoveries and breakthroughs. For example, he says he rejected a theory attributing skin cancer to acid rain, proved that the mathematical symbol π is not actually equal to 22/7, and was the “first person in the world” to prove that watching television in a dark room hurts your eyes. (The uses of the term “prove” in all these cases are his, not mine.)

But this “scientist” clearly didn’t have science on the brain when developing his most recent project, in which he sought to invalidate marriage equality altogether. Here’s how he stumbled into his research question:

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