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Religion's Fading Allure

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April 25, 2018

Hi Blue

As secularists, we feel we have a solid understanding of the good that comes from abandoning dogma and magical thinking and that by relying on evidence and critical thinking, we can foster a society that maximizes freedom, creativity, and prosperity. We know that societies that downplay dogmatic religiosity and elevate education and free expression have some of the happiest populations on Earth.

This week, we get a better understanding of why that is. New research that encompasses data from hundreds of thousands of people from more than one hundred countries illuminates a striking contrast between secular and religious societies, showing that the more people feel they can rely on a government or other secular entity to meet their basic needs, the less religious they tend to be.

We’ll also see what life is really like for those who have rejected the religiosity of their surroundings and the perils they face in their day-to-day lives. Atheists in Egypt have been largely forced into silence, risking everything just by being caught with their doubts.

And while one would hope that a nation whose government is based on secular principles would seek to share those ideals with the rest of the world, as we’ll learn this week, the Trump administration is doing just the opposite, using its diplomatic power to impose backward, dogmatic beliefs about women and sex on those who so badly need their rights defended.

This is part of why we do the work we do sharing the light of science and reason in spite of the darkness. The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science and Richard Dawkins are sharing some of that light with a recent online workshop that is now available to the public. And to bring even more inspiration and enlightenment, Richard and the great Carolyn Porco are teaming up for two special live engagements in Dallas and Nashville this fall. Don’t miss your chance to see these two great science communicators in person.

Robyn E. Blumner

President & CEO, Center for Inquiry

Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science

See Richard Dawkins and Carolyn Porco in Dallas and Nashville The Allure of Religion Will Diminish Being an Atheist in Egypt—and Keeping Quiet about It
Richard Dawkins is coming to Dallas on October 28 and Nashville on October 30, and he'll be joined live onstage for conversations with brilliant planetary scientist Carolyn Porco. Dr. Porco led the imaging science team for the inspiring Cassini mission to Saturn that provided some of the most breathtaking images ever seen—on or off this planet. She was also on the imaging teams for the Voyager missions of the 1980s and the recent New Horizons mission to Pluto. Each engagement will include a Q&A session and book signing, with VIP receptions before each event (and only a small number of VIP tickets will be available, so hurry!). Don’t miss this meeting of these great minds. Get your tickets for Dallas now and for Nashville starting April 26. A new study by researchers from the Universities of Rochester, Utah, and Virginia encompassing data from over 450,000 people from 115 countries shows that in places where government provides services that meet people's needs in terms of health care, education, and basic living requirements, the intensity of religious belief is markedly reduced. "If the benefits acquired in the religious exchange can be acquired elsewhere, religion becomes less useful," they write, adding, "The power and order emanating from God can be outsourced to the government." In the U.S., we know how difficult it can still be for many atheists to open up about their nonbelief to family and friends for fear of the response they'll receive and the rejection they could be subjected to. Anthon Jackson at Quillette takes us to Egypt, where the fear of reprisal is existential. Profiling several Egyptian atheists, Jackson presents a stirring look at the perilous balancing act performed by Egypt's apostates. Afraid of their government, their neighbors, and even their families' reactions, "Atheists must be vigilant lest they slip up," he writes. "The wrong facial expression or comment could do the trick."
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Free Inquiry is the leading journal of secular humanism, bringing you thought-provoking features and commentaries that spark spirited debate and challenge conventional wisdom.

Skeptical Inquirer is the magazine for science and reason, the foundational publication of the skeptic movement, critically evaluating the claims of fringe-science and the paranormal with news, opinion, and original investigations.

Digital Subscriptions are available for both magazines and are much less than their printed counterparts.

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Video of the Week: Richard Dawkins Joins a Special TIES Webinar

This past Easter Sunday, which just so happened to coincide with April Fools’ Day, CFI’s Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) presented a special online workshop for science teachers looking to improve their skills and inspire their students, headlined by the founder of TIES himself, our own Richard Dawkins. A remote audience of teachers, students, and science education professionals submitted questions, which moderator and TIES Director Bertha Vazquez incorporated into the presentation. Richard discussed such topics as the worst misconceptions about evolution, the best ways to define evolution to those who know nothing about it, the best examples of the evidence of evolution, the problem with the term “missing link,” and much more. And now, you can see it for yourself.


At the UN, Trump Officials Turn Back the Clock

When Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of CFI and the Richard Dawkins Foundation, attended the 62nd UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) last month, she was heartened to find so many nations embracing many of the fundamental principles underlying women's rights. But as we’ll learn from Ema O'Connor at BuzzFeed, behind the crucial signs of progress were the machinations of those trying to turn back the clock on women's rights, sadly led by representatives of our own government.

O'Connor reports that behind closed doors, Trump administration officials made it clear that they seek to push the religious-Right agenda to curtail access to abortion, contraception, and even sexual education wherever they can wield their influence. As one member of the CSW board told O'Connor about one event with Trump officials, "This meeting was just so bonkers."

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Getting Nowhere Fast

Let's say you belong to an extraterrestrial civilization, and just like humans on Earth (which you've of course never met or even know about), you and your kind wish to explore the cosmos. But let's also say your homeworld is orbiting Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to Sol (our Sun, but you don't know that), and that yours is the second planet in the Proxima system, Proxima b. (You, of course, call it something else.) You've actually got a big and heavy problem.

It seems that you and your fellow Proxima b astronauts will have one hell of a time getting away from your planet. As Abraham Loeb explains at Scientific American, due to several factors, a Proximite vessel would need as much power as Earthlings use to launch an entire space shuttle just to get one single gram's worth of equipment into interstellar space! Now that’s a big lift.

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Question of the Week

This past Sunday was Earth Day. (Maybe there is also a Proxima b Day?) If you did anything to mark the occasion, what was it? What do you think is the best way for all of us to celebrate Earth Day?

Our favorite answer will win a copy of Brief Candle in the Dark by Richard Dawkins.

Want to suggest a Question of the Week? Email submissions to us at (Questions only, please. All answers to bimonthly questions are made only in the comments section of the Question of the Week.)

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© 2018 Center for Inquiry.
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science is a divison of the Center for Inquiry.

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