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This Week in Atheism 2018–05–20


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/05/20

“LOS ANGELES — Eight years ago, Amanda MacLean enrolled for a singing course at Santiago Canyon College, a community college where she worked in Orange, Calif. All students were required to sing together as a choir. She was surprised when she found that the mandatory sessions not only included hymns but performances at religious events.

After singing at the City of Orange’s Christmas tree lighting three years in a row, she couldn’t stand it anymore. She went online to find herself an atheist choir.

“I knew there had to be nonbelievers out there who felt like I did, who had no place to sing without being forced to sing about Jesus,” said MacLean, now 40 and an administrative assistant at the J. Paul Getty Museum here. “I actually thought atheist choirs were a thing.””


“In the 2013 “Fool Me Once” episode in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” women’s prison series, lead character Piper Chapman perfectly explains why a lot of atheists are atheists.

Here’s her long, gritty, stream-of-consciousness quotation, which I stumbled onto while ambling through the Stumbleupon bookmarking website (my hat’s off to the writer):

“I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver and Neil deGrasse Tyson and Christopher Hitchens, although I do admit, he could be kind of an asshole. I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony awards while a million people get whacked with machetes.


“For those who do not believe in divine judgement, a worldly reckoning can sometimes await them. This is the case for the controversial atheist and daring YouTuber Sherif Gaber, who is caught in a sort of secular purgatory.

The prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer and activist Gamal Eid informed me that his organisation, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), had managed, on Monday 7 May, to help secure Gaber’s release from Cairo airport, where he had been unlawfully detained since the previous Wednesday because no official arrest warrant had been issued for him. After his official release, Gaber vanished.

He tweeted that, after four days “in hell”, he was “free”, but he did not go into detail about his situation, leading to fears he has been ‘disappeared’ and that the security services had somehow taken over his Twitter account.

Even now that Gaber is presumed free, he is not actually free.”


“Authoritarian regimes and religious institutions in the Muslim majority world see eye-to-eye on the topic of atheism. United by their fear of losing control over their populations and their desire for conformity, consecutive governments have pushed for unfair restrictions on their subjects’ beliefs since their inception. But even in society, non-belief remains a taboo. Should atheists in Muslim majority world become more vocal?

With the increasing number of persecution and punishment cases as well as discrimination campaigns against atheists in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa, another question arises as to whether Islam establishes discriminatory demarcations to atheism or there are other factors that play a crucial role.

Since March 2018, the Parliamentary Committee on Religion in Egypt has been preparing a bill to criminalize atheism in Egypt. This move is one of many Egypt has recently undertaken to combat atheism. The proposed law consists of four articles. The first article defines Egyptian state’s understanding of atheism; the second criminalises atheism and imposes severe punishments upon atheists; the third stipulates that the penalties are lifted when a person abandons his/her atheistic beliefs, and the fourth is that the penalties for atheism prescribed by law should be “very strict”.”


“”Churches Fight Atheist Lawsuit that Could Result in $1B in Taxes on Church Leaders,” reads the headline in Amber Strong’s post on I have argued elsewhere that a billion is probably not the right number, but there is something even more wrong about the headline. The man who sparked the lawsuit about the constitutionality of tax free housing allowances for ministers is not an atheist , quite the opposite. Robert Baty considers himself a Christian and has for decades been a member of one of the Churches of Christ.

Among his hobbies is something he created called Atheism 101 — Critical Thinking Exercise that is meant to get atheists to reflect on whether they might be wrong. Then there is presuppositianalism, another of his obsessions that I don’t share. Presuppossitanlism is something that is supposed to bring atheists around, but Bob does not think that it works. Sorry to you theologians out there. I know there is a lot more to it, but unfortunately I am not going to get it.

What I do share with him are interests in young earth creationism, Kent Hovind and the parsonage exclusion. Bob contacted me because of my coverage of the Phil Driscoll case in 2012 and we have been blogging buddies of a sort ever since. He has a gift for aggravating people and has been kicked off a few internet sites because of his insistence that people pay attention to his obsessions, but that sort of behavior is not going to trouble me. Recently he claimed that he had triggered the current outbreak of constitutional challenges to the parsonage exclusion. I thought that was a claim that required some substantiation, so I contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, one of the plaintiffs.”



In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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