2014.01 News: BIble-Minded Cities in America

Time magazine reports results of a recent survey on the extent of "Bible-mindedness" in America's biggest cities.

To save you having to squint to read the small gray type, here's where Wisconsin cities (really metro areas) ranked out of the 100 areas rated:
  • 76 Milwaukee
  • 79 Madison
  • 85 Green Bay / Appleton

Also of interest:
  • 44 Quad Cities
  • 53 Des Moines / Ames
  • 74 Chicago
  • 75 Minneapolis / Saint Paul
  • 96 Cedar Rapids / Waterloo

The good news? Even America's most devout city, Chattanooga, barely climbed over the 50% mark for Bible-mindedness.


2014.01 News: Kid Killer Exemption in the News Again

Believe it or not, some Wisconsin legislators aren't content with just letting parents starve or beat their kids with impunity if done for "good" (read "religious") reasons, they want to extend so-called "rights of conscience" still further. Fortunately, other lawmakers are working to rein in Wisconsin's statutory exemption from the child-neglect and -abuse laws. Read more here.

In all likelihood, nothing will happen the remainder of this legislative session one way or another, which means that religious zealots in Wisconsin will still be free thruout 2014 to maltreat their kids and get away with it.


2014.01 Opportunity: Survey of Atheists

Researchers from the University of Tampa and Iowa State University would like your opinions for a study. Their survey looks at the perceptions and attitudes of both affiliated and unaffiliated nonbelievers, concerning the functions and activities of secular, freethought, humanist, and atheist organizations, and also the conduct of individuals and groups in the broader atheist movement/community in general. It'll take about 10 minutes, and you need not answer every question.


2014.01 News: Pastor Decides To "Try" Atheism, Loses 3 Jobs

For some reason, Rev. Ryan Bell's employers at various ardently Christian institutions came to doubt his commitment and sincerity when he announced that he was going to try spending a year living as an atheist to see what it was really like. Their general attitude? Don't let the door hit you on the hinder on your way out.


2014.01 Education: Social Awareness Quiz

Over at CNN.com's Belief Blog the commenters are having a swell time with today's story "After Schism, Can Atheist Churches Last?". This comment in particular seemed to stand out above the crowd:

A quick 10-question quiz might help explain why young Jews and Christians are deserting religion in droves. The core problem the priests, ministers, and rabbis face is the Internet. Suddenly they no longer have a monopoly on what they tell these kids while they are too young to know any better. The kids can fact check themselves and, of course, religion is soon exposed as having a lot to explain. So:

Q1. The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives, by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in an “afterlife” comes from the realm of ...
(a) bad science fiction
(b) children’s fairy tales
(c) hallucinogenic psychology
(d) religion

Q2. What is the only thing capable of making 40% of the country utterly stupid enough to think the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with one man, one woman, and a talking snake?
(a) a horrid mental disease
(b) a failed educational system
(c) a successful al-Qaeda plot to undermine academic advancement in the USA
(d) Christianity

Q3. Complete the following sentence: “It is not uncommon in many parts of the world for a young man to strap a suicide vest to himself and blow up himself along with members of a rival __________.”
(a) corporation
(b) university
(c) street gang
(d) church

Q4. It is only acceptable as an adult to believe Bronze Age mythology like talking snakes, the Red Sea splitting, manna falling from the sky, a man living in a whale's belly, a talking donkey, superhuman strength, a man rising from the dead, and angels, ghosts, gods, and demons in the field of ...
(a) history
(b) literature
(c) anthropology
(d) religion

Q5. I have convinced myself that gay sex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have homosexual urges. I am being obstinate and closed minded due to my ...
(a) heterosexuality
(b) DNA
(c) nationality
(d) religion

Q6. I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like “Please God, help me pass my exam tomorrow”, some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am ...
(a) a delusional schizophrenic;
(b) a naive child, too young to know how silly that is
(c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a 5th-grade education
(d) your average Christian, Muslim, or Jew

Q7. Hundreds of millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because ...
(a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus
(b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine
(c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story
(d) their faith tell them to believe it’s so because that’s what the priest said

Q8. The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others, whom they have never met, in its furtherance is ...
(a) architecture
(b) philosophy
(c) archeology
(d) religion

Q9. What differentiates science and all other intellectual pursuits from religion?
(a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they must believe under threat of “burning in hell” or other divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine, etc. have no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them.
(b) Religion can make a statement such as “God comprises the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit” and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by demonstrable, repeatable evidence.
(c) Science and the scientific method are universal and consistent all over the world, whereas all religion is regional and a person’s religion, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than a matter of upbringing.
(d) All of the above.

Q10. If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filthy river, mutilating my child’s genitals, or prostrating and abnegating myself in the belief that an invisible being is somehow reading my innermost thoughts, I am likely driven by ...
(a) demons
(b) an irrational fear or phobia
(c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse
(d) my religious belief