In centuries long past, religious militants could arrest, torture, and murder those suspected of heresy. But is it really the past? Today in some parts of the world, to be known as a nonbeliever can make one a target of the state, vigilantes, and angry mobs. Accusations of blasphemy can be casually hurled at others because of grudges or slights, with individuals imposing their own punishments.
Last week, The Atlantic magazine published a story on the efforts of the Center for Inquiry to help the victims of this untenable situation, the Secular Rescue program. Headlined "The Underground Railroad for Atheists," this report is awakening people around the world to the plight of the secular in militantly religious societies and how we are all working together to save their lives.
In the U.S., meanwhile, secularism is steadily on the rise. New survey data shows that the cohort just now coming into its own, "Generation Z," is the least religious yet and very favorable toward science. Contrast this with our current administration, which is overt in its privileging of religion and is now going so far as to create an office for the purpose of excusing religious health care providers from treating groups they don't approve of.
People will always harbor bad ideas, and in a video of her excellent CSICon 2017 presentation, we'll hear from Eugenie Scott about how our tribal loyalties can get the better of our rational minds. Finally, we'll take a more cosmic view of life as we consider what life on other worlds might look like and take the air out of some assumptions about what it takes to harbor life.
One more thing: We're incredibly proud of the progress being made by the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), the Richard Dawkins Foundation program that trains middle school science teachers to be more effective in the teaching of evolution. We're excited to announce that TIES is stepping into the digital realm with online workshops. The first free webinars for teachers take place today, January 31, and tomorrow, February 1. Teachers can click here for details.
Robyn E. Blumner
President & CEO, Center for Inquiry
Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science