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Bulletin # 168 - Rationalists International

Evil Genius posting in Rationalist International on LJ
User: rationalists (posted by evil_genius)
Date: 2007-12-27 13:46
Subject: Bulletin # 168
Security: Public
Bulletin # 168
25 December 2007


Happy Birthday, Sir Isaac Newton!
Celebrating the 365th Birth Anniversary of the Father of Modern Science & Rationalism

Sir Isaac Newton
(25 December 1642 – 20 March 1727)
[OS: 4 January 1643 - 31 March 1727]

Sir Isaac Newton, English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, and alchemist, was the father of modern science. In his treatise Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, he described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, laying the groundwork for classical mechanics, which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries and is the basis for modern engineering. Demonstrating the consistency between Kepler's laws of planetary motion and his theory of gravitation, Newton showed that the motions of objects on earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws. With this, he removed the last doubts about heliocentrism and advanced the scientific revolution.

His conception of the universe based upon natural and rationally understandable laws became the seed of Enlightenment. These principles were available for all people to discover. It allowed people to pursue their own aims fruitfully in this life, not the next, to perfect themselves with their own rational powers.

A Year of Rationalist Achievements

The year 2007 has brought some welcome changes. The idea to reject religion and irrationality and insist on the primacy of reason has become attractive for a considerable section of the public in different parts of the world. There is a new sensitivity about violations of freedom of thought and freedom of personal life. The atmosphere is slowly changing, courage seems to be infectious. Dark shadows start giving way. The following three developments show an encouraging international trend.

The new Atheist Revolution

Prof. Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, British biologist, Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford and Honorary Associate of Rationalist International sparked a fresh and powerful atheist movement in Europe and the USA . His book “The God Delusion”, published in 2006, keeps topping international best seller lists and as of November 2007, over 1.25 million copies were sold of the English version alone. “The God Delusion” was enthusiastically welcomed by many thousands of would-be-atheists, who had been waiting for the clear and fearless voice of reason to do the last step and come out. Richard Dawkins has become the face of a very convincing and confident new atheism and one of the most wanted public speakers and TV talk show guests in the Western world.

“The God Delusion”, writes Dawkins, contained four "consciousness- raising" messages: 1. Atheists can be happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled. 2. Natural selection and similar scientific theories are superior to a "God hypothesis" - the illusion of intelligent design - in explaining the living world and the cosmos. 3. Children should not be labeled by their parents' religion. Terms like "Catholic child" or "Muslim child" should make people flinch. 4. Atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind.

Dawkins’s book does not stand alone. It is leading an Armada of international anti-religious bestsellers, among them most prominently Christopher Hitchens’s “God Is Not Great" (Hitchens is another Honorary Associate of Rationalist International) and Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation”. The “New Atheists” triggered widespread academic commentary with many books written both by atheists and theists in response. Most prominent respondent was Pope Benedict. By the end of November, he addressed the whole church with the encyclical “Spe Salvi” (in hope we are saved), launching a strong attack on atheism as a concept grounded in “intrinsic falsity” that “has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice." “Let us put it very simply”, he emphasized: “man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope".

Pope's trembling voice packed with fear and deliberate lies speaks for the enormous success of the “New Atheists” -cornering the Pope in such a way that he had to respond with an encyclical in effort to save his face and herd.

The Ex-Muslim movement among immigrants in Europe

Mina Ahadi        Mariyam Namazie

In February 2007, Mina Ahadi, Iranian-born Human Rights campaigner in Germany , took a courageous initiative. She founded the “Central Council of Ex-Muslims” to counter the all-powerful “Central Council of Muslims” in Germany .

Today, more than 13 million immigrants from Muslim countries are living in Europe . Many of them are not practicing Muslims and whish to escape the authoritarian regime of Islam that ruled their homelands. But religious tyranny is catching up with them, as they are represented and governed by powerful religious organizations dealing with European authorities on their behalf and pressing them into the traditional life of religious communities. Only a few dare to break out. Renouncing Islam still carries the death penalty in countries like Saudi-Arabia , Afghanistan , Pakistan , Iran and Sudan . And even in Europe , there are enough fundamentalists out to kill apostates in the name of Allah.

Mina Ahadi and some thirty co-fighters launched a daring campaign with the motto “We have renounced”, publishing their photos and personal statements – and got hundreds of members within a few days. Death threats and necessary police protection didn’t spoil Ahadi’s optimism. “We want to create a new movement, in other European countries too. We hope that soon there will be 10,000 of us representing many more”, she said.

Today, there are Councils of Ex-Muslims in Germany , Britain , The Netherlands and several Scandinavian countries. Membership is growing fast. Mariyam Namazie, Iranian born British broadcaster and Honorary Associate of Rationalist International, is heading the central organization in London . She is convinced the Councils of Ex-Muslims are representing a "silent majority" among Europe 's Islamic population. "The people who join are just the tip of the iceberg," she says. "A lot of people call and say they would like to join but they're afraid or intimidated. " But then, courage is contagious.

India: Rationalist mass education via TV

Sanal Edamaruku

During recent years, the Indian fascination for miracles has gripped the ever growing scene of private TV channels competing for the highest viewership rates. Especially some Hindi language channels, catering to the uneducated rural masses, developed sensationalized “miracle” shows that would glue millions of people to their TV sets to witness the bizarre performances of unknown paranormal forces, ghosts and godmen. The Indian Rationalist Association campaigned relentlessly against this massive re-enforcement of superstition and attacked irresponsible miracle mongers in the media. The campaign was successful. Since 2006, more and more channels wanted to be responsible – without loosing out on the viewership rates. They decided to show miracles – but included the rationalist point of view into their programs. Sanal Edamaruku became a frequent studio guest and running commentator of all the colourful flowers of the obscure that superstition would grow in India . The result: many shows could be turned into very effective education programs.

Eventually, a unique pattern of on-the-spot exposure evolved, based on direct interaction between the rationalist in the studio and the personal of a far off rural miracle scene. Rationalist education extended its outreach immensely - and turned out to become very popular. In many programs viewers could also call in and discuss directly with Edamaruku. Some programs could not be stopped because of overwhelming participation and continued for several hours till midnight.

Over the year 2007, Sanal Edamaruku appeared in 132 TV programs in all national Hindi channels like Zee TV, Star News, Sahara Network, Janmath, India TV, Aaj Tak, IBN7 and MH1, and participated in a range of discussion programs in English language channels like NDTV, CNN-IBN, Headlines Today and Times Now and in Malayalam as well as Telugu Channels. He encountered godmen, astrologers, healers, bishops, bigot politicians and a “regression therapist” from the Netherlands – often much to their displeasure and professional damage. He gave scientific explanations how some stones can float and stone statues “grow” and change their colour, how trees can “bleed”, sea water taste sweet, statues of monkey god Hanuman and Mother Marie weep, how faces appear on house walls and in certain vegetables, how bread in a lockup can double, flower garlands on holy pictures grow and how shoes can “move” all alone. He stopped mischievous “poltergeists” burning clothes and frightening mother-in-laws, redeemed transformed snake girls and reincarnations and helped a 14-year-old village boy, who appeared to have transformed into an American physics professor, “remember” his Hindi mother tongue and unlucky childhood.

Certain “miracles” just did not happen when his participation in a program was announced. That way he spoiled Sai Baba’s great new miracle. The godman announced that his face was to appear in the moon and moved alongwith thousands of his followers and numerous camera teams to the airport of Puttapartli to celebrate the “miracle”. But less than one hour after Zee TV started announcing a live show with Sanal Edamaruku covering the event, the godman’s luxury car fleet turned home, the crowd was dispersed and the moon show postponed. Allegedly too many clouds had been spotted in the clear sky.

Rationalist Bulletin in Portuguese and Spanish

We are delighted to annonce that the Rationalist International Bulletin has started a new edition and web pages in Portuguese language (Português) as well. Portuguese language is spoken by over 250 millions people in Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Cabo Verde, Mocanbique, East Timor, Madeira Island and so on. We whole heartedly welcome Octavio C. Botelho, who has joined the team as our translator from Portugal. Octavio lives in Uberlandia between Sao Paulo and Brasilia, capital of Brazil.

After a brief gap our Spanish edition re-started recently. The new translators for the Spanish language (Español) bulletin are Carlos Zacarías from Mexico and Heber Rizzo from Uruguay. We cordially welcome them to the Rationalist team behind the bulletin.

Recipients of Rationalist International Bulletins are permitted to reproduce, publish, post or forward articles and reports from the Bulletin. Please acknowledge Rationalist International Bulletin # 168. Copyright © 2007 Rationalist International.
Rationalist International Bulletin is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Finnish and Portuguese.
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December 2007