Monday, 24 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 24: Richard Dawkins

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It's Christmas Eve, and in the final Advent Podcast Richard Dawkins tells Robin Ince why we should celebrate Alfred Russel Wallace alongside Charles Darwin as the co-discoverer of natural selection.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 23: Dara Ó Briain

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In the 23rd Advent Podcast, comedian Dara Ó Briain speaks to Robin Ince backstage at Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People 2008, and is rudely interrupted by Ricky Gervais.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 22: Philip Jeays

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For the 22nd Advent Podcast singer-songwriter Philip Jeays very kindly provided us with the song he performed at the 2008 Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People shows, "Death Bed" (just in case your kids are around, be warned the song features some colourful language).



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Recorded in 2008. Additional music by Andrea Rocca. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Editors pick their top 10 articles from 2012

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Here's a list of the top ten articles published by New Humanist this year, as selected by our crack team of editors. In no particular order...

31 arguments against gay marriage (and why they're all wrong) by Jason Wakefield – Far and away our most shared article this year was Jason Wakefield's witty debunking of arguments against gay marriage. 

No more lies by Alom Shaha – The breakout star of atheism this year was ex-Muslim Alom Shaha, whose book The Young Atheist's Handbook helped to show that non-belief is an option for everyone.

An atheist at Alcoholics Anonymous by Frank B – Can an atheist be cured by AA? This powerful and wonderfully written piece by an ex-addict gives the answer.

D'oh my God: faith in The Simpsons by Andrew Mueller – Fat, yellow and hopeless. Yes, Andrew Mueller was the perfect choice to write about how everyone's favourite family do God.

Q&A: Iain Banks – Not just a great writer but, as revealed in this short interview  a mordant wit and all round good bloke. He also told us that New Humanist is his favourite magazine. 

How to defend free speech by Nick Cohen – A step-by-step guide to defending free speech from one of the best and most intellectually consistent liberal writers in the business. What's not to like?

No fire, no brimstone: an interview with Alain de Botton – The pop philosopher wants atheists to take the best bits from religion and leave out the bad. Our verdict? "Like trying to remake Star Wars with no Darth Vader".

Phony war by Paul Sims – The government and the religious establishment seem determined to wage war on secularism, and are making themselves looking very silly in the process. Our News Editor surveyed the British culture wars.

Circumcision: time to cut it out by Toby Lichtig – In June a German court ruling against circumcision brought the issue to the front of the news agenda, and exposed strong feelings among secularists, many of whom feel the practice should be banned. We asked Toby Lichtig, himself a circumcised secular Jew, to negotiate the ethical minefield

I may as well be a unicorn by Jamila Bey – What is it like being an African-American atheist, growing up in a culture steeped in religiosity? US journalist Jamila Bey wondered whether she really exists at all.

Malicious intent by Beena Sarwar – Blasphemy hit the headlines in 2012, with violent, shocking results. Pakistani journalist Beena Sarwar looked at the situation in her home country, where punitive blasphemy laws with their roots in the colonial period are used to prop up conservative Islam and perpetrate horrific human rights abuses.

Racing the Popemobile by Laurie Taylor – When a Milan taxi driver comes up against His Holiness and entourage, there can only be one winner. Laurie Taylor reported from the passenger seat.

We need volunteers in 2013 - want to help a small secular publisher grow?

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2013 is going to be a big year for the Rationalist Association. We're launching a brand new website (see a preview page), which will expand our online publishing and grow our membership, and we're planning a series of events.

So we're going to need some help. First thing to say is at the moment we are looking for volunteers - meaning the positions will not be paid. We can pay some expenses but at the moment we are not offering salaried positions. We are a charity and looking for people who share our aims to donate some time.

If you're not put off by that here's the deal: we need extremely bright, competent and confident people to help us out with online publishing, editing, marketing, social media, event co-ordination, and whatever else comes up.

If you might be in a position to donate a day or two on a regular basis this is what we need:

People with the following skills:

High level of literacy and ability to write clear compelling prose
Attention to detail (including ability to proof read)
Strong online skills including familiarity with Twitter, Facebook, CMS
Ability to work professionally in an office environment
Ability to travel to our London Bridge office

Also Desirable:

Experience with publishing software (Adobe CS)
Experience with audio/podcasting (recording, editing, uploading)
Familiarity with online email and CRM programmes
Marketing/Copy-writing skills
Experience with databases
Multimedia - photography, video
Design skills
Journalistic experience

Volunteers will be based at our London office in Southwark.

A volunteer position would ideally suit someone studying journalism or a related field, though we'll consider every application carefully on its own merits.

Hours and length of the volunteer period are negotiable.

If you are interested please send your CV with a covering note to info@newhumanist.org.uk.

We'll be looking at applications in January and will contact appropriate candidates then. We'll try and acknowledge all applications but can't guarantee a response as we are a small team (which is why we need help!).

Advent Podcasts Day 21: Tim Minchin

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It's two mentions in two days for Kurt Vonnegut in the Advent Podcasts, as comedian Tim Minchin joins Josie Long in saying he'd like to hold an annual celebration in honour of the late novelist.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Todd Akin: Winner of the 2012 Bad Faith Award

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Over 3,000 readers stopped by the New Humanist blog to place their vote to decide the winner of the 2012 Bad Faith Award, and following a very open contest we can announce that a deserving individual has joined the roster of past winners, which includes Nadine Dorries, Pope Benedict XVI and Sarah Palin.

In August 2012, Todd Akin, who represents Missouri’s second district in the United States Congress, caused a storm when he appeared on a local news station to discuss his anti-abortion position. Asked for his view on whether women who become pregnant as a result of rape should have access to abortion, Akin said:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Akin later apologised, but his comments have been widely cited during the US election campaign as an example of the so-called Republican “war on women”. They cost him his run at a Senate seat for Missouri in November, and some have even suggested they helped cost Mitt Romney the Presidential election. Still, at least he has the consolation prize of our Bad Faith Award.

Honourable mentions must also go to to some of this year’s runners-up. In second place was Prince Charles, who was able to secure a medal position thanks to some frankly outstanding electioneering by New Humanist reader John Hind, who took to our blog in an effort to try to persuade voters that the heir to the throne deserved to usurp the Bad Faith crown as a special “lifetime achievement” award for his services to irrationalism.

In third place were the Catholic authorities in Mumbai, who have played a key role in ensuring that India’s leading rationalist, Sanal Edamaruku, has had to leave the country in order to avoid imprisonment for blasphemy, after he committed the shameful offence of pointing out that the supposed “holy water” dripping from a crucifix statue in fact originated from a blocked toilet.

So, with Todd Akin deemed 2012’s leading enemy of reason, that’s it for the 2012 Bad Faith Award. But that’s no reason to lower your guard – nominations for 2013 are open now, so if you think of anyone to put forward, leave a comment here or email us at editor@newhumanist.org.uk.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 20: Josie Long

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In the 20th Advent Podcast, comedian Josie Long tells Robin Ince that she would like to celebrate Kurt Vonnegut at Christmas.




Head over to our Soundcloud channel to subscribe to updates, download files, and listen to other Rationalist Association podcasts. You can also find us on iTunes.

Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 19: Ann Druyan

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In the 19th Advent Podcast, science author and broadcaster Ann Druyan explains why she would like to celebrate eight scientists, each one represented by a Hanukkah candle.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Best books of the year – according to our reviewers

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Books are great aren't they. Full of words, and sentences  Some even have punctuation. We love them. If you share our love you may enjoy this list of the top five books of the year, as decided by our totally scientific star system. We present them in the order in which they were reviewed.

1. The Dead Hand: The Untold story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy by David Hoffman

What: A comprehensive look at the global arms race, the ending of the Cold War - and the crucial roles played by Reagan and Gorbachev – and a warning about the continuing threat posed by stockpiles of nuclear and chemical weapons.

Reviewer's verdict: "Hoffman's superb account of the twists and turns in the struggle to end the arms race is detailed  gripping and monumental, a worthy winner of the Pulitzer Prize."

Michael Binyon in the Jan/Feb issue.

2. The Train in the Night: A Story of Music and Loss by Nick Coleman

What: The haunting memoir of a music journalist who suddenly lost his hearing

Reviewer's verdict: "His essential question is whether he created the vast – and now possibly useless – record collection that dominates his lounge, or whether it created him. His attempt to answer it will cause you to appreciate your favourite music as if you're hearing it for the first time."

Andrew Mueller in the March/April issue.

3. Breaking Their Will  by Janet Heimlich

What: A harrowing account of religiously motivated child abuse and neglect in the US and beyond.

Reviewer's verdict: "A timely reminder of the harm that can be done when the power of religious institutions goes unchallenged and under-scrutinised."

Richard Wilson in the May/June issue. 


4. On The Modern Cult of Factish Gods by Bruno Latour

What: Superstar French intellectual turns his ironic gaze onto the relationship between science and religion – and upsets many an atheist scientist in the process.

Reviewer's verdict: "Readers with a limited appetite for paradox may quickly tire of Latour; but they should not close the book without looking at the final pages. He concludes with a brief and brilliant essay... Abjuring facetiousness for a while, Latour offers a moving comparison between religious words and words of love; their truth he says is a truth of transformation rather than a truth of information."

Jonathan Rée in the July/August issue

5. Where Have You Been by Joseph O'Connor

What: A new set of short stories, in a contemporary Joycean mode, from one of Ireland's most celebrated writers

Reviewer's verdict: "Though in tune with the buzzing sense of the modern – mobile phones, Aerlingus, the Internet all play their part – O'Connor never forgets the backdrop of Irish Literature against which he paints. This collection is beautiful; full of pure, simple truths that linger long in the mind."

Philip Womack in the November/December issue

and finally...

A Christmas turkey:

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgård

What: Much lauded "faction" memoir from what the press release insisted is "Europe's New Literary Star".

Reviewer's Verdict: "It is entirely possible that this novel is a masterpiece, and has just been badly served by a translation which would have us believe that teenage boys call each other "lying sod" and "lying toad" in the same breath; which prizes obscurity: "In art that which was beyond was synonymous with society, by which is meant the human masses which fully encompassed its concept and ideas of validity"; and which describes a car seat as "inviolable". But I don’t think so. I pity the poor translator. After all, it must have been hard to translate something so soporific. This is a monstrous exercise in egotism, a gigantic literary joke whose only redeeming feature is that it isn't any longer than it is."

Advent Podcasts Day 18: Mark Steel

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In the 18 December Advent Podcast, comedian Mark Steel tells Robin Ince why the French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat deserves an annual day in his honour.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Imprisoned Egyptian atheist released on bail

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Alber Saber has been released on bail, but still faces a
three-year sentence for blasphemy
Alber Saber, the 27-year-old Egyptian atheist who was last week sentenced to three years in prison for "insulting an Abrahamic religion", has been released on bail pending appeal.

Index on Censorship's Egypt correspondent Shahira Amin was able to interview Saber as he was signing papers for his appeal at the court. Stating that “no price is too high for freedom”, he vowed to continue to fight for free expression in Egypt, and said that he was lucky to be alive after facing violent attacks from fellow inmates in Cairo's El Marg prison.

Saber's lawyer Ahmed Ezzat expressed his concerns for religious freedom in Egypt under Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, pointing out that a new draft constitution contains a ban on “insulting prophets.

Read the full story on the Index on Censorship site.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 17: Marcus Brigstocke

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In the Advent Podcast for 17 December, comedian Marcus Brigstocke tells Robin Ince that we should celebrate a different scientist every year.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 16: Laurie Taylor

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In the 16th Advent Podcast, our very own Laurie Taylor tells us why, if he could celebrate any scientist with an annual day, it would be his own father, Stanley Douglas Taylor.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 15: Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant

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In the 15th Advent Podcast, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant tell Robin Ince which thinkers should be celebrated at Christmas, and reveal their surprising decisions to convert to Christianity and creationism.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 14: Eddie Izzard

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In the Advent Podcast for 14 December, comedian Eddie Izzard tells Robin Ince his thoughts on the personal hygiene of scientists, and the "smelly genius" of Isaac Newton.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 13: Andrew Collins

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In the 13th Advent Podcast, broadcaster Andrew Collins makes an unusual (and fictional) choice for the thinker he would like to honour with an annual day of celebration.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Egyptian atheist Alber Saber sentenced to 3 years in prison for insulting religion

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Alber Saber has been convicted for insulting religion
A 27-year-old man from Cairo was today sentenced to three years in prison for "insulting religion", in the latest development in a case that has prompted global outcry from human rights activists concerned about the future of freedom of belief in post-revolutionary Egypt.

As we reported in September, Alber Saber was arrested at the height of the controversy over the crude anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, after an angry mob gathered outside his home and accused him of editing a Facebook page for Egyptian atheists and posting links to the offending film. Following his arrest, Saber was physically assaulted with a razor blade in his jail cell by a fellow prisoner.

Saber was charged and convicted under Article 98(w) of the Egyptian Penal Code, which outlaws the use of religion to “promote extremist thoughts with the intention of creating dissent or insulting a Abrahamic religion” or “undermining national unity”.

Reports suggested that Saber was expected to be released today following payment of bail of $167, pending appeal, but it is not yet clear whether this has been permitted by the court.

The news of Saber's conviction follows the publication this week of a new report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union which documents the state-sanctioned human rights abuses against non-believers in many parts of the world.

The report covers laws affecting freedom of belief and conscience in 60 countries, and lists many individual cases involving the denial of atheists' right to exist, the curtailing of their freedom of belief and expression, the revoking of their right to citizenship, the restriction of their right to marry, the obstruction of their access to public education, bans on their holding public office, the prevention of their working for the state, the criminalisation of their criticism of religion, and the execution of them for apostasy.

In addition to the case of Saber, whose photo appears on the cover, the report covers a large number of cases, including:
  • In Indonesia, Alexander Aan was jailed for two-and-a-half years for Facebook posts on atheism.
  • In Tunisia, two young atheists, Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji, were sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for Facebook postings that were judged blasphemous.
  • In Turkey, pianist and atheist Fazil Say faces jail for “blasphemous” tweets.
  • In Greece, Phillipos Loizos created a Facebook page that poked fun at Greeks' belief in miracles and is now charged with insulting religion.
  • In Egypt, 17-year-old Gamal Abdou Massoud was sentenced to three years in jail, and Bishoy Kamel was imprisoned for six years, both for posting “blasphemous” cartoons on Facebook.
The full report can be downloaded [PDF] from the IHEU website.

Update, 12/12/12, 4.30pm: An Amnesty International press release provides quotes in reaction to the conviction of Alber Saber.

His mother, Kariman Mesiha Khali, said:
“This is pure injustice … I can’t believe during the investigations the boy was asked about his religion and how he practices it, this is none of their business, it’s been three months and I can’t eat or sleep because I can only see him 10 minutes per week. I am calling for Alber to be released, he is just someone who says what he believes, and on the other hand [for the authorities to] try to catch the people who are really inciting violence.”
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme said:
“This is an outrageous verdict and sentence for a person whose only ‘crime’ was to post his opinions online. This conviction will ruin his life, whether he serves the sentence or not. The court should have thrown the case out on the first day, yet now he’s been branded as having insulted religion.”
The Amnesty release also sheds some light on the legal process that surrounded his case:
"The activist’s lawyer told Amnesty International that his client’s trial was marred by the judge’s refusal to allow the defence to call key witnesses – including the arresting and investigating officers, and the individuals who first filed the complaints against Alber Saber Ayad.

While he was held at Cairo’s El Marg Police Station, a police officer reportedly incited other detainees to attack him. During his trial he was also held in poor conditions in Tora Prison – his cell was next to a sewer and lacked light or clean water until human rights organizations filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor on his behalf."

Advent Podcasts Day 12: Ben Miller

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In the Advent Podcast for 12 December, comedian and actor (and holder of a PhD in quantum physics) Ben Miller tells Robin Ince why Einstein deserves an annual day in his honour.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.   

The Pope's winning social media strategy

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In this digital age, companies will pay thousands of pounds for a winning social media strategy, cooked up by bright young things in swish start-up offices in our metropolitan centres.

But the rules on best practice may have to be rewritten now that Pope Benedict XVI (followers: 672,576, and that's just for his English language account) has sent his first tweet. Because, really, your mundane 140 character messages are pretty worthless if they're not sent at a special ceremony before an audience of thousands gathered specifically to watch you do it.

Pope Benedict XVI Sends First Tweet from Rocco Palmo on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 11: Chris Addison

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In the 11th Advent Podcast, comedian and actor Chris Addison decides to nominate a well-known populariser of science for a special annual celebration. He would also like a Spinning Jenny for Christmas.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.  

Government unveils marriage reform plans

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The Minister for Woman and Equalities Maria Miller has this afternoon unveiled the details of the government's proposal to legislate for gay marriage, with a bill set to be introduced into parliament into January.

As expected the legislation will allow for civil same-sex marriages from 2014, but Miller also revealed the details of the rules that will govern the conducting of religious same-sex marriage ceremonies. Religious groups will be able to conduct same-sex marriages if their governing has chosen to opt in to doing so, with the exception of the Church of England, which will be legally banned from offering gay marriages. Miller explained that this is because the Church has "explicitly stated" its opposition to the reforms, and therefore the government will "explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples".

Miller also explained that there will be a "quadruple legal lock" to ensure that no religious organisation or religious minister will be compelled to carry out gay marriage ceremonies against their wishes. As well as the Church of England band and need for the organisation's governing body to opt in, no individual minister will be compelled to conduct a ceremony, and the 2010 Equality Act will be amended to ensure no one can be prosecuted under it for refusing to conduct a ceremony.

As the proposals were debated in Parliament, opponents rose to condemn the plans. Conservative MP Peter Bone said "How dare the secretary of state try to redefine marriage?", and Andrew Selous, also a Conservative, quoted Mark 10 and Matthew 18 to point out that gay marriage runs contrary to Christ's teaching. Meanwhile, Jim Shannon of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party made up a statistic and stated that "99.9%" of his constituents are opposed to the proposals.

For a run through of some of the arguments against gay marriage, and why they're all wrong, take a look at Jason Wakefield's recent piece on the New Humanist website.

Campaign to send Alom Shaha's Young Atheist's Handbook to schools

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Considering today's news that the percentage of people in England & Wales identifying as non-religious in the Census has risen 25 per cent, there could be no better time to highlight a new campaign to send a copy of the year's best atheist book to every school in the land. 

The Young Atheist's Handbook by Alom Shaha is a riveting personal account of the author's journey from growing up in a strict Muslim environment on a south-east London council estate, to the teenage realisation that he did not believe in the religion followed by the majority of those within his community. Alongside this moving personal story, Alom offers his thoughts and advice on how to square the big questions of morality and existence with a rejection of theistic explanations.

Having enjoyed the book himself, science teacher and blogger Ian Horswell had the idea of launching a campaign to get the book into schools:
"Despite knowing Alom through his work as a science teacher and writer online, I was amazed by the evocative prose in his book and the challenges he faced moving from nominal believer to outspoken freethinker. It made me realise how fortunate many of us are to be able to take for granted our own freedom to believe, or not, in the faith of our parents. It seemed to me that the very students who needed to read Alom’s book would find it hard to buy for themselves, so instead I wondered if we could place a copy in every secondary school library."
With the support of the British Humanist Association, the campaign is now live, and you can donate via a JustGiving site. The total required to get a copy to every secondary school is £32,000, so if you support the initiative, please give generously if you can!

For a sample of what The Young Atheist's Handbook is all about, read Alom's piece from our May/June issue, in which he tells the story of his journey from Islam to atheism.

Percentage in England and Wales identifying as Christian falls to 59 per cent following 2011 Census

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The results of the 2011 Census, published this morning, show that the percentage of people in England and Wales identifying as Christian has fallen to 59.3 per cent, down from 71.8 per cent in 2001. Twenty-five per cent stated that they had "No religion", up from 15 per cent in 2001.

The key points from the religion section of the Census, as reported on the Office for National Statistics website, are as follows:
  • In the 2011 Census, Christianity was the largest religion, with 33.2 million people (59.3 per cent of the population). The second largest religious group were Muslims with 2.7 million people (4.8 per cent of the population).
  • 14.1 million people, around a quarter of the population in England and Wales, reported they have no religion in 2011.
  • The religion question was the only voluntary question on the 2011 census and 7.2 per cent of people did not answer the question.
  • Between 2001 and 2011 there has been a decrease in people who identify as Christian (from 71.7 per cent to 59.3 per cent) and an increase in those reporting no religion (from 14.8 per cent to 25.1 per cent). There were increases in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing the most (from 3.0 per cent to 4.8 per cent).
  • In 2011, London was the most diverse region with the highest proportion of people identifying themselves as Muslim, Bhuddist, Hindu and Jewish. The North East and North West had the highest proportion of Christians and Wales had the highest proportion of people reporting no religion.
  • Knowsley was the local authority with the highest proportion of people reporting to be Christians at 80.9 per cent and Tower Hamlets had the highest proportion of Muslims at 34.5 per cent (over 7 times the England and Wales figure). Norwich had the highest proportion of the population reporting no religion at 42.5 per cent.
The rise in the number of atheists comes in spite of a question widely believed to lead respondents towards selecting a  religion instead of the "No religion" option. The Census asks, "What is your religion?", and secular campaigners argue that this involves an assumption that those responding have a religion. In the run up to the 2011 census the British Humanist Association ran a high profile campaign to raise awareness of the fact that "No religion" can be selected by those with no religious affiliation.

When a less leading question is asked, surveys often reveal the proportion of Christians to be below 50 per cent. For instance, in 2011 the highly respected British Social Attitudes Survey, which asks "Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion? IF YES: which?", found that 50 per cent of respondents had no religion, compare with 44 per cent who identified with a Christian denomination.

Monday, 10 December 2012

We won't be intimidated by cries of offense

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We do not set out to offend, but given that our job is to make trenchant critiques of religion it will sometimes happen that people get offended or upset by what we say. We're sorry if we have hurt anyone's feelings, but we believe in free speech and reserve the right to express the truth as we see it, no matter if this offends. We will not be intimidated, and stand firm in our commitment to reason, science and sacrilege.

Here is the most recent letter of complaint we have received. We respect the right of the sender to feel offended but we will never back down and never surrender. If we did society as we know it would crumble and a great darkness would descend over the land. And it would get quite chilly.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I recently came across an article in Volume 124, Issue 2 entitled "God Trumps Part II", which, in conjunction with an earlier article entitled "God Trumps", I find to be highly offensive and disrespectful to my beliefs and the beliefs of many other members of my faith.

I, and many other members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, find it offensive to see that our deeply held religious beliefs do not seem to merit the same care and attention your magazine affords to other religions. Pastafarians constantly find themselves unfairly discriminated against, and in many cases the sacred religious truths we choose to live our lives by are made the subject of ridicule.

Our faith is relatively young, I will admit. Our sacred prophet, Bobby Henderson, was only touched by His Noodly Appendage as recently as 2005, but since then, millions of people have seen the light and converted. We are one of the fastest growing religious groups worldwide, and I, and many others feel that this is not reflected in the media. I hope your magazine will be more respectful of our beliefs in the future.

Yours faithfully,

[name redacted]

Readers may be interested to know that we are developing a web app of God Trumps so the game can be played online. We pledge that it will never, ever include the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. So there [name redacted]!

Advent Podcasts Day 10: Martin Rowson

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On the tenth day of our Advent Podcasts, cartoonist Martin Rowson looks back with great sentimentality on how we lived before the dawn of civilisation, and says we should replace Christmas with a celebration of the anthropologist Christopher Boehm.



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 9: Ben Goldacre

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On the ninth day of our Advent Podcasts, science writer and doctor Ben Goldacre says he would like to hold a celebration for Archie Cochrane, who he calls "the grandfather of evidence-based medicine".



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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.   

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 8: Simon Singh

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On the eighth day of Advent, Simon Singh celebrates the genius of Galileo.




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Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.  

Friday, 7 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 7: Natalie Haynes

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In the Advent Podcast for 6 December, writer and critic Natalie Haynes tells us about why she thinks the Roman philosopher and playwright Seneca deserves to be celebrated with an annual day.



Head over to our Soundcloud channel to subscribe to updates, download files, and listen to other Rationalist Association podcasts.

Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.  

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 6: Dave Gorman

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On Day 6, Robin Ince talks to Dave Gorman about the mathematician Paul Erdős, and how he gives his name to maths' very own version of the Bacon Number. Gorman would also like a Soda Stream for Christmas.



Head over to our Soundcloud channel to subscribe to updates, download files, and listen to other Rationalist Association podcasts.

Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.  

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent Podcasts Day 5: Alexei Sayle

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On the fifth day of our Advent Podcasts, Robin Ince talks to comedian and novelist Alexei Sayle about which scientist he'd like to honour with an annual celebration. And listen out for his choice of the scientific invention he'd like to receive for Christmas.



Head over to our Soundcloud channel to subscribe to updates, download files, and listen to other Rationalist Association podcasts.

Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.  

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Advent Podcasts 4 December: Christina Martin

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On the fourth day of the New Humanist Advent Podcasts, comedian and writer (and creator of our legendary God Trumps) Christina Martin tells us why she'd like to replace Christmas with a day in honour of Vasily Dokuchaev, the founder of modern soil science.



Head over to our Soundcloud channel to subscribe to updates, download files, and listen to other Rationalist Association podcasts.

Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca. 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Advent Podcasts 3 December: Robin Ince

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In the third New Humanist Advent Podcast, comedian Robin Ince explains why he thinks the world needs an annual Carl Sagan Day.



Head over to our Soundcloud channel to subscribe to updates, download files, and listen to other Rationalist Association podcasts.

Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Advent Podcasts 2 December: PZ Myers

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In the second of the New Humanist Advent Podcasts, biologist and leading atheist blogger PZ Myers tells us which scientist from history he'd like to honour with an annual celebration, and which scientific gift he'd most like to receive.



Head over to our Soundcloud channel to subscribe to updates, download files, and listen to other Rationalist Association podcasts.

Recorded in 2008. Music by Andrea Rocca.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

New Humanist Advent Podcasts December 1: Stephen Fry

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Back in 2008, when our Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People shows were in their first year, we cooked up an idea with Robin Ince that we're still very fond of. Every day through Advent, we uploaded a short podcast featuring a Nine Lessons performer or a friend of the magazine in which they answered two simple questions:
  • If they could hold an annual celebration in honour of any scientist from history, who would it be?
  • Which science-related gift would they most like to receive?
As it's now been four years, and Nine Lessons is celebrating its fifth year, we thought we'd bring them back. So be sure to check in every day through December for a short podcast featuring a well-known voice from comedy or science – later contributors include Richard Dawkins, Josie Long, Simon Singh, Chris Addison, Ann Druyan and Ricky Gervais.

But you don't have to wait until later for the big names – to get us started, here's none other than Stephen Fry.



Head over to our Soundcloud channel to subscribe to updates, download files, and listen to other Rationalist Association podcasts.