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wow, something interesting in USA Today? FIrst time for everything.

Cool graph from USA today showing poll results about religious affiliation. The poll question was not published...irritating. There's a link to a more in-depth article (at least by USA Today standards) and multimedia images, but the eye-catching graph is the thing to see.
PA ranks in a tie for 14th for the number of people identifying as "no religion." The northeast is highest in this category. It makes me wonder if there's a link between socioeconomic status and religious affiliation. I suspect there's an inverse relationship between median income by state and those identifying as religious. With more time I'll investigate. Anyone know if this has already been done?



Terrific! 50 proofs that gawd does not exist

Read them here. My favorite?
Prayer is rank superstition, nothing more. People who believe in the power of prayer are no different than people who believe in the power of crystal balls, horoscopes or lucky rabbits feet. Prayer is scientifically proven to be meaningless.


Score one (more) for evolution

Discovery of puijila darwini in northern Canada, a seal with legs instead of flippers, supports the theory of evolution as a transitional fossil.

Watch this about transitional fossils and creationism:

Theory is not defined as "something somebody thinks is true," as opponents of evolution and magical thinkers would have you believe. Visit this site for a nice description of what a theory is.

Incidentally, Miriam-Webster's dictionary site gets it wrong. Okay, maybe they get it wrong on purpose because of its popular use. But it helps explain how theories, though solid, thoroughly debated and tested, and/or capable of explaining phenomena, can be thought of as "an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances."

Here's a nice site from National Geographic which lists seven transitional fossils.
And now a bigger list, just the vertebrates.
Finally, transitional fossils from all flavors of animal.


Fantastic video. Get in and comment!

Watch it and giggle...

Fantastic video. Get in and comment!


Watch it and giggle...


Gallup poll: fewer identify themselves as Christian in US than in past

A positive sign for the nonreligious: this Gallup Poll (sample size: slightly over 17k) shows a decline in Americans identifying themselves as Christian. I grabbed a chart from the original site, but be sure to follow the link above -- there's more there.

This made me wonder: given that the fastest-growing ethnic group in the US is the latino community, which identifies itself heavily as Catholic, will these gains be short-lived as the large adolescent latino population ages and become voters? With some research I discovered that:
a) almost 25% of latinos are Protestant, more that my prejudices would allow me to believe.
b) that about 70 % of latinos are Catholic. I assumed it was more like 80 to 90 percent.
c) less than 1 % of latinos are atheist/agnostic.
I'm not trying to single out latinos because of their religious beliefs. I'm just thinking that this data makes it likely that the gains in population of nontheists comes probably from caucasian protestants. That's my guess.

For more good news, listen to this. It's an NPR report from their show, Faith Matters, that say that latinos are leaving the Catholic church...


Hitchens vs. the world

I haven't even been able to get through all 2 hours of the video, but Hitchens acquits himself well against 4 theists.
Watch it.


Lively online atheist community

See ThinkAtheist for a lively online community. Lots of different media and topics.

They have a radio show which airs once a week on Saturday evenings, lots of video messages, and a lively message board.


Texas falls

I'm upset. Read this, from the NCSE.
It was looking good for a while.


This one's worth a giggle...


YES! TX avoids diluting science as a concept

The ongoing battle in Texas to sneak creationist dogma into public school science has been shot down...again. Read here.

The key words: Strengths and Weaknesses...

Why is Texas so important? Because,
"What happens in Texas doesn't stay in Texas. That state is a sizeable consumer of public school textbooks, and it's likely that if it waters down its science standards, textbook publishers all over the country will follow suit. This makes every American school hostage to the caprices of a few benighted Texas legislators."
Having lived in Texas for 10 years ('92-'01) I have anecdotes to back that up, but more importantly, the numbers back it up:


Too much god in BSG

Did anyone else watch Battlestar Galactica? There were many omens leading up to last night's finale that portended a holy power, but last night made it worse. It's still a magnificent show and it was quite a finale, but it was all explained by god, god, god. Even the evolution of mankind was brought about by the intervention of a holy power! Disappointing, that.


College professor PZ Meyers runs a blog entitled "Pharyngula," which is always full of good stuff. One of today's posts, about a confrontation with a pro-lifer, is a good read. It's about when life "begins."

this person wants a specific quote from a biology text that has the words "human life does not begin at conception" in it. That would be tough, because it's a sentence that rather boggles the brain of any developmental biologist — we also tend not to write sentences like, "human beings are not flies".


Whaddya think of these guys?

The Way of Yo seeks to unite the nonreligious, deists, and buddhists into some sort of uplifting, positive religion which has an "unknowable essence" as a core belief. Anyone encounter or study Yoists?


Do you know science?

A recently released study, conducted by Harris Interactive and paid for by the California Academy of Sciences shows that Americans as a whole don't know Jack about science. Correlation may not imply causation, but we're also consistently ranked as one of the most religious nations in the world.

Here's a more in-depth quiz asking what you know about science. I got a D. Tough quiz -- the verbiage can often be interpreted in more than one way.


Secular Coalition for America: Rise of the Godless

The Secular Coalition for America posted an item about the National Review, a journal read by politicians and power brokers, about the rise of the nonreligious as a political entity. You can read the original article after the jump.

"Look out, social conservatives. The secularist, humanist, freethinking nontheists and atheists are growing in number, and coalescing into a movement with a real agenda."


Program on Public Values finds secularity on rise in US

The Program on Public Values, affiliated with Trinity College in Hartford, CT, published a report that showed a twofold increase in those identifying themselves as "no religion."

The study found 15 percent of respondents identifying themselves as "no religion," as compared to 8.2 percent in 1990 and 14.1 percent in 2001.

Though Trinity is a Catholic school, the team conducting the survey is made up of sociologists, anthropologists, and profressors of religion.

Only 1.6 percent of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic. But based on stated beliefs, 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure), while 12 percent more are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God). The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million. Twenty-seven percent of Americans do not expect a religious funeral at their death.

If you feel a little to cheery about that news, read the comments on ABC News' site here to get depressed.


Official sermons, and my ignorance

There's been a lot of stink about Rick Warren delivering the Invocation the day of the inauguration of our next president. The result of that controversy is the choice of Reverend Robinson, gay minister, to do some kind of kick-off prayer.

My questions:
a) Is this official state business paid for by tax dollars under the justification that the new prez has the choice to have his faith be a part of it? If so, how is this happening? Shouldn't the financial burden be shouldered privately?
b) How many prayers are involved in the inauguration?
c) What's the difference between them?
d) What, exactly, is Rick Warren invoking?

I confess complete ignorance about all of this. I'd appreciate help in understanding the role of prayer in the Presidential inauguration.


Ricky Gervais weighs in

The debate is over.