Tuesday 30 July 2019

Why Americans Are Losing Confidence In Religion

Why Are Americans Losing Confidence in Organized Religion?

Following on from their poll finding that American confidence in organised religion is continuing to decline, an article by Gallup's Frank Newport analysed the reasons for this decline in greater details.

As I reported a few weeks ago, from being the most respected of American institutions in 1974, with 68% of Americans having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it, this figure has now sunk to just 36% in 2019.

Monday 22 July 2019

New Light on Cichlid Evolution in Africa

Just a few of the Lake Victoria Cichlids
New light on cichlid evolution in Africa - LMU Munich.

Cichlids are a ubiquitous group of freshwater fish in the tropics and are notable for the wide range of morphologies and patterns of behaviour that have adapted them to exploit a wide range of freshwater habitats. There are some 1100 different African species alone, most of them belonging to the Haplotilapiini group.

Now a collaborative research project carried out under the auspices of the GeoBio-Center at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany (LMU), has helped shed light on the origins and causes of this central paradigm in evolutionary biology.

The most notable example of this diversification is in the Great Lakes, Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria, and others, in the East African Rift Valley where we can date the beginnings of this radiation with a fair degree of accuracy because several of these lakes are know to have dried up at particular geological times. This effectively zeros the local evolutionary process at the point where the lakes fill again.

Friday 12 July 2019

Declining Religion in UK

Religion Identity, behaviour and belief over two decades | British Social Attitudes 36 - Religion.

'Christian', as a self-identifier of religious belief, fell below 40% for the first time in 2018 in the UK, while 'non-religious' oustripped all the others combined at 52%.

Coincidentally, the UK voted to leave the EU by exactly the same percentage of those who voted as those who now state they have no religion. On the basis of that margin, the UK is now going through the most fundamental change in its constitution since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

The constitutional change as a result of 52% of people having no religion has been conspicuous by its absence. In Theresa May's words, nothing has changed. In this instance though, that statement is true.

Thursday 11 July 2019

The End of Christian Fascism in Greece?

Greek fascist 'Golden Dawn' flag
Greece election results: Landslide for centre-right New Democracy after Syriza concedes defeat | The Independent

Hidden in the result of the recent Greek general election a few days ago was a welcome result which went almost unnoticed by the mainstream news media; the extreme right-wing, Orthodox Christian-supported and openly fascist party, 'Golden Dawn' was totally wiped out, losing all its MPs.

Golden Dawn had previously been Greece's third largest party but under the Greek proportional electoral system, having failed to reach the 3% threshold, it did not qualify to have even one MP.

According to this report, the Greek Orthodox Church, which unlike Catholicism, does not have a rigid hierarchical structure but has devolved regional autonomy, is at least ambivalent towards Gold Dawn's openly fascist, ultra-nationalist policies and violent tactics. While some bishops have been critical other have been lukewarm or even openly supportive of Golden Dawn.

U.S. Confidence in Religion Falls Again

U.S. Confidence in Organized Religion Remains Low | Gallup.

The confidence of Americans in organized religion has fallen by a further two percentage points in the last year and now stands at another historic low of just 36% having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it.

Historical lows have been recorded in each successive year for the last 5 years and there has only been one brief respite in an otherwise inexorable decline since 2010. In 1975, soon after Gallup began polling the same question about a number of American institutions, organized religion has fallen from the most trusted at 68% (a position it held until 1985) to sixth place.

Over the same period, those expressing very little of no confidence in organized religion has risen from 11% to 27%.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Pope's Envoy To France

Archbishop Luigi Ventura, papal nuncio to France
Credit: Rémy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images
Vatican lifts diplomatic immunity for envoy facing assault claims | World news | The Guardian

On January 17 this year, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, gave a new year’s address to diplomats, religious leaders and civil society figures in the city hall. Also invited was 74-year-old Archbishop Luigi Ventura, papal nuncio to France, the equivalent of an ambassador for the Vatican City state and the personal representative of Pope Francis. He has held the post since 2009.

While there he allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted a member of the city staff, by groping his bottom, once in full view of witnesses. The attention was unwanted, uninvited and unwelcome.

The employee reported the matter to his employers who, on 24 January, reported the matter to the police as a sexual assault, and an investigation was launched. After these allegations emerged, a second man alleged that Ventura had molested him in Canada. Christian Vachon alleged Ventura touched his buttocks at least twice during a banquet held at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, near Quebec.

However, as an accredited diplomat, Ventura was immune from prosecution, as is every other diplomat under the 1961 Vienna Convention, unless diplomatic immunity is withdrawn by the diplomat's own country - in this case, the Vatican City.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

Catholic Abuse News - German Congregation Walkout

Rev. Ulrich Zurkuhlen
"I have never experienced anything like this in the 54 years of my life as a priest."
German Catholics Storm Out Of Sermon Urging Forgiveness For Predator Priests | HuffPost UK

Once upon a time, the members of a Christian congregation were nothing if not derential. Not so now though if Münster in Germany is anything to go by.

A congregation would once sit, sometimes for hours, enduring the lectures priests delivered from their pulpit. They would nod piously but silently in agreement, as the sacred words of wisdom poured forth upon the assembled godly, enlightening them, reinforcing their sense of unworthiness and their need to come back again next week to endure another lecture, hand over money and beg for forgiveness.

They would even shake hands with the priest as they left, congratulating him on another wonderful sermon - whilst scarcely remembering a word of it.

Not so today, as events in the German city of Münster showed. Gone is deference to the moral authority of the church and it's priests. Sickened by daily stories of hypocrisy and moral depravity of priests, and in this case Catholic priests, the congregation in the Holy Spirit Church answered back, loudly and angrily. Eventually half the choir walked out followed by about 70 of the congregation and held an impromptu protest meeting outside.

Monday 8 July 2019

How Christians Lie to Us - Gay 'Conversion' Fraud

Science Journal Retracts Paper That Said Gay Conversion Therapy Works | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

Last August, an American Christian rights pressure group, Liberty Counsel, issued a press release in which they claimed:

A recent study, Effects of Therapy on Religious Men Who Have Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction, confirms the overwhelming effectiveness of people receiving counseling to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.

In this study, more than two-thirds of those who participated in group therapy or received professional help had significant heterosexual shifts in sexual attraction, sexual identity, and behavior, and moderate-to-marked decreases in suicidality, depression, substance abuse, and increases in social functioning and self-esteem. The study’s effectiveness rates for counseling people with unwanted same-sex attraction were comparable to the effectiveness rates of psychotherapy in general for any unwanted issue.


This current research also strongly refutes claims the American Psychological Association [APA] and other organizations have made aimed at discouraging counsel to change unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, and identity.

Thursday 4 July 2019

Cultural Evolution and Wood Pigeons

Common wood pigeon, Columba palumbus
I'm sitting in my garden enjoying a beautiful sunny summer day with a light breeze. About ten feet to my right is a tangle of buddleia and ceanothus with a vine and a wisteria twinging up through it, having outgrown their pergola. In the centre of this tangle is a wood pigeon's nest. A couple of wood pigeons are strutting about not six feet from me.

Outside my front door, in a tangle of Clematis montanum and making a right mess of my outside lamp and the ground beneath, is another wood pigeon's nest. The first clutch of young having flown about a week ago, they already seem to be sitting on a second clutch of two eggs. Always two and always one male and one female - a 'pigeon pair'.

According to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), wood pigeons, Columba palumbus, are now competing with blue tits and blackbirds for the top spot as Britain's commonest garden bird. Something has changed radically in the behaviour of wood pigeons over the last ten to twenty years.
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