If you’ve been asleep or off-planet for the last day or so, you might have missed the news that the Pope’s resigned and Catholics everywhere are “shocked”. If you weren’t asleep, you’ll be sick to death of the news coverage and the ruddy awful jokes on Twitter. Anyhow, since it’s topical, why not do Christina Martin’s Pope quiz to pass the time ’til the next news bulletin?
Internet reviews, links and recommendations.
We’ve changed our Twitter username to @suffolkhands. If you don’t already follow us, why not?
The NSS reports that both the Scouts and Guides have launched consultations to ask their members and the general public if they should develop a non-religious version of the promise that children are expected to make when they join. Click here to find out how you can respond.
Just a reminder that if you order books from Amazon via the link on our home page, we get commission.
Contrary to what Christian leaders have been claiming for a long time, the “real meaning of Christmas” isn’t their nativity story. A midwinter festival has been celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere for thousands of years (it’s pre-Christian in origin). The Romans had a festival called Saturnalia, which the BBC website details – Did the Romans invent Christmas? The answer is, no, they didn’t; the early church high-jacked the Roman festival of Saturnalia, when it became clear that no one was going to stop having a good time at around this time of year.
Originally a one-day feast at the end of autumn, Saturnalia gradually moved to later and later dates, with longer celebrations, throughout the Roman period.
By the time of Christian conversion it was running into and incorporating a number of festivals. These included the Opalia – the festival day for Saturn’s consort Ops – on the 19 December and the Sigillaria- the day of present-giving – on the 23 December. The 25 December was dies natalis solis invicti – the birthday of the ‘invincible’ Roman sun-god Sol.
Cancelling Saturnalia was unthinkable, so Christian Rome converted it to a Christian holy day instead.
American atheists have a lot of invective aimed at them by ignorant Christian fundamentalists. One extreme example, this week, was in response to the school massacre in Connecticut; a Tennessee Baptist pastor told his congregation that the number of mass shooting were escalating because of schools were government “mind-control centers” that taught “junk about evolution” and “how to be a homo,” and that “humanism” in schools taught Lanza (the shooter) that he was God and “he can just go blow away anybody he wants.” He wasn’t alone in blaming atheists and atheism for the massacre. Former US Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said that the shooting was a result of having “systematically removed God from our schools” (ignoring the fact that America is constitutionally secular).
It’s great that many Americans, even those who are religious, find the statements of Huckabee and company objectionable, but it’s unfortunate that the objections focus on the wrong issue. Rather than argue about whether God is jealous and vindictive or loving and compassionate (or at least in addition to that argument), Americans should be calling out fundamentalists for depicting nonbelievers as agents of evil.
Physicist, author, and broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili has been appointed the British Humanist Association’s new President from January 2013, when he’ll take over from Polly Toynbee.
Today is Human Rights Day. Tomorrow we’ll be hosting a celebration at the university, with guests including the Mayor of Ipswich, focussing on Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Click here for more information. Today, the International Humanist and Ethical Union has issued a report on worldwide discrimination against the non-religious. It details those countries where freedom of speech is impossible because it is considered a crime to criticise religion, or even to be non-religious or to adopt the wrong religion. If you care about this, please join us at the university tomorrow, and share this post. The IHEU says,
The International Humanist and Ethical Union has produced the first report focusing on how countries around the world discriminate against non-religious people. Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Non-religious has been published to mark Human Rights Day, Monday 10 December.
The church’s rejection of women bishops makes its occupancy of 26 seats in the House of Lords untenable. Please sign this e-petition.
No women Bishops, no automatic seats in the House of Lords
Responsible department: Cabinet Office
The Church of England on 20th Nov 2012 voted not to allow women to be Bishops. Though that is within its rights to do, this should worry the Government as Church of England Bishops are awarded legislative power through seats in the House of Lords.
The Church has chosen to be a sexist organisation by refusing women the right to hold highest leadership positions and therefore should not be allowed automatic seats in the House of Lords, as this clearly does not comply with the spirit of UK Equality law.
We call on the Govt to remove the right of the Church of England to have automatic seats in the House of Lords, in line with its commitments to equality and non-discrimination, set out in the Equality Act (2010) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979)
As Douglas Adams wrote, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Well now you can explore some of it through the wonders of internetery and the enthusiasm of some star-gazers at Google, who’ve created 100,000 Stars, a virtual tour through just a little bit of the universe, where there are far more than 100,000 stars; nobody knows how many, but it’s a mind-bogglingly huge number. Anyhow, go explore, while listening to a soundtrack from videogame score composer Sam Hulick.
Don your space suit, then click here for your space odyssey. You can zoom in and out, so you’re in partial control of where you go, but be warned: “Scientific accuracy is not guaranteed. Please do not use this visualization for interstellar navigation.” Click on the question mark in the bottom right hand corner for instructions, which begin,
100,000 Stars is an interactive visualization of the stellar neighborhood created for the Google Chrome web browser. It shows the location of 119,617 nearby stars derived from multiple sources, including the 1989 Hipparcos mission. Zooming in reveals 87 individually identified stars and our solar system. The galaxy view is an artist’s rendition based on NGC 1232, a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way.