Weekly News and Blog Roundup: Religious Institutions Get It (Almost) All Their Own Way

From paedophile priest cover-ups to textbook propaganda, it might seem that religious institutions have been getting it all their own way this week. Fortunately, you can always rely on Atheist Ireland to rack up a couple of points for the home side.  

Our World – Beneath the Radar

It is unfortunately difficult to choose which of the many paedophile priest stories to include in a roundup of this week’s news. The Catholic Church’s selfish cover-ups have been reported across the globe, and recently one priest has come out to say that he would not necessarily refer sex crimes against children to police today if passed information confidentially.

Watch the BBC News documentary Our World, which follows a former priest and known sexual offender who has been protected by the church, here.

Also, read Christopher Hitchens’ article on the subject here.

Sign the Protest the Pope petition, urging Gordon Brown to formally disassociate himself with the Pope’s preachings prior to his upcoming UK visit, here.

Great News From Ireland!

On Wednesday we celebrated Saint Paddy’s ridding Ireland of snakes (Yes, that is what you were celebrating.) Now it appears that we may soon have cause to celebrate Ireland’s ridding of its hugely more venomous blasphemy law.

The Irish Justice Minister has proposed a referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Irish constitution. His decision can be credited, in no small way, to what he describes as “[Atheist Ireland’s] incredibly sophisticated campaign”. I’ll drink to that.

[Via Pharyngula]

The Pledge Decision

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals has announced that the Pledge of Allegiance’s inclusion of the words “under God” is in fact constitutional. Take a minute to recover from the shock if you need it. The decision was ruled by a majority of 2-1, and leaned on arguments so fragile that they would surely have collapsed were they not reinforced by the fear of public outrage.

[Via Common Sense Atheism]

Libel Reform – Urgent Next Steps

Last week played host to the Big Libel Gig, in which several comedians and other prolific speakers joined forces to make a case for libel reform in the UK. All proceeds are to be donated to the Coalition for Libel Reform.

This coming Tuesday there will be a mass lobby at the House of Commons, where members of the public are invited to express their concerns over the UK libel laws to their MPs en masse. This will be the last chance to get commitment on the issue from politicians and policy makers before the election is called. Click here for further details.

[Via Richard Dawkins]

The Texas Textbook Hubbub

The Texas Board of Education (BoE) has opted out of the proposed national education standard so that Texan students can have no choice but to live up to their state’s stereotype.

The predominantly Christian Conservative BoE has a history of manipulating their textbooks’ material that would shock Winston Smith. This year, in order to correct the “liberal bias” they have voted to remove references to the Enlightenment and Thomas Jefferson! Even scarier is that because Texas buys so many textbooks, many publishers tailor their material to the needs of the Texan BoE, spreading the propaganda nationwide.  

Watch the ABC Nightline news coverage here.

[Via Skepticblog]

Gaza’s Male Hairdressers: Time to Cut and Run?

Q: What do you get when you cross a Gazan legal system with a nonsensical Islamic tradition?

A: A new policy making it illegal for a man to cut a woman’s hair.

The joke might be funnier of course, if this wasn’t the result of public protest, sometimes taking the form of bombing offending salons.

Read the BBC News coverage here.


Erie UFO not so Eerie

Ohio has been mesmerised by the skies this week, with people gathering around Lake Erie night after night to witness a unidentified light in the sky. The light has returned to its spot for eight consecutive nights and has been reported to change colour. UFO nuts are baffled. Patrick Kent is not.  

Watch the MSNBC News coverage here.

[Via Discover Blogs]


Please feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to reply as quickly as possible. Until next time, take care of yourself, and each other.

If you come across something that you think our readers would enjoy, send a tip my way at will [at] skeptic [dot] org [dot] uk.

March 19, 2010 at 10:50 am | Blog Round-up | 5 Comments »

5 Responses

  1. Jonathan says:


    Noted this website on Google that seems yet to be developed. Thought it would be an interesting approach to teaching !!
    Darwins Church a science for life a faith for a reason;
    Love the ambiguity of the  site quote "I don’t know who discovered water but it certainly wasn’t a fish!"

  2. I saw a promo of the BBC story on Our World, very disturbing stuff. I don't know what's worse, the child-sex crimes or the institutional cover-ups. On reflection the cover-up is a far worse crime because it helps breed a pedatory culture.

  3. Mandy Close says:

    With a bit of luck that doco will make it to Australia. The priest as pedophile stories just keep on breaking. So sad.

  4. Donald Nuss says:

    Title Virgin Birth

    The authors of the Gospels were steeped in pagan literature and lore where the gods
    Impregnated mortal women and miracles thrived. Virgin births were part of pagan Greek culture.
    Many Christians consider Jesus’ virgin birth the most important proof that he was the “Son of God.” If indeed his mother, Mary, was a virgin, why was this startling news not known to his contemporaries and earliest believers? They knew nothing because nothing was written or said. Even Paul writing in the fifties A.D. believed Jesus’ birth was normal.

    “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh.”(Rom 1: 1-3)

    “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,” (Gal 4:4)

    Only Matthew and Luke state that Mary was a virgin and impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Their Gospels date from the seventies and eighties A.D. Where did this concept originate? What were their sources? Was Matthew in Mary’s bedroom as she talked to an angel? Neither Mary, Joseph, the Holy Spirit of the angel of the Lord told him. Was Luke in Elizabeth’s bedroom when she had her conversation with the Angel Gabriel?
    The most important reference for Matthew and Luke was in Isaiah 7:14, seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus. It is translated in the King James translation as:
    “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
    But in the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament it is translated as:
    “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and you shall name him Immanuel.”
    The Hebrew Bible, which predates the New Testament by centuries, uses the word almah instead of virgin in the Isaiah 7:14 verse. Further verses indicate the word almah means young woman.
    Behold, I [Abraham’s servant] stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the almah cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink. (Gen 24:14)

    Obviously, the servant is referring to a young woman, not a virgin. The Torah has an explicit word for virgin—betulah or bethulah—which is always used when the context requires virginity. (See Genesis 24:16 , Leviticus 21:14 , and Deuteronomy 22:15-19 ). Even Isaiah used it in 62:5. Its nonuse in the Immanuel passage indicates that Isaiah spoke only of a young woman, not specifically of a virgin.
    Jesus was not the first famous person to be born of a virgin. In the ancient world, great men were born of divine fathers and human mothers. Alexander the Great and the Roman emperor Augustus were great men and [therefore] said to have had miraculous births. Jesus was also a great man, so he too must have a divine father. The claims of Jesus’ birth are no different from any of the other virgin or miraculous birth legends.
    Buddha’s mother dreamt that a white elephant entered through her side. The next morning she was pregnant with Buddha. Mut-em-ua, the virgin Queen of Egypt, supposedly conceived Pharaoh Amenkept III by a god holding a cross to her mouth. Ra, the Egyptian sun god, was said to be born of a virgin. So were Perseus, Romulus, Mithras, Genghis Khan, Krishna, Horus, Melanippe, Auge and Antiope. Zeus impregnated many mortal women.
    Matthew and Luke created the concept of a “virgin birth” for one purpose only— to enhance the stature of Jesus.

    * * *

  5. Donald Nuss says:

    Mark was the first Gospel author to write a biography of Jesus in the seventies of the first century, forty years after Jesus’ death. All editors and publishers of books about historical persons demand that writers:
    1. Establish the times and places of events described
    2. Identify themselves
    3. Reveal the sources of their information
    4. Verify this information by others
    Mark did none of these.
    1. Marks’ times and places were vague: “On that day” (4:35). “He left that place,” (6:1). “When evening came”. (6: 47). “In those days,” (8: 1).
    2. The Gospel of Mark was anonymous. It was given the name “Mark” one hundred years later by Papias, the Bishop of Heiropolis, a city in Asia Minor
    3. Mark never credited any source. From whom did he get his information?
    4. None of the fifty Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Jewish authors writing during Jesus life wrote anything about him or the astounding events swirling around his life that the Gospels affirm.