Rousing the Atheists – Deccan Herald

In these scarring last months of Hindutvas blood-blazed march in a notional constitutional democracy, Indians are finding there is tiny space in their public consciousness for one of the most marginal of their minorities if we view them as an ideology, an intellectual persuasion, a way of being: I am speaking of Indias multifarious non-believers, atheists and agnostics.

In the movement against the CAA-NRC-NPR, the agitations against the violence at Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University and north-east Delhi, there has been a spectrum-crossing conjoining of Muslims, Sikhs, the Bhim Army, Christians, people of many and no genders and some non-believers under one ark. Herein, the ragtag of non-believers has made a quiet re-entry into public life on a livewire issue. But, some unpacking first.

As Hindutva advanced in this era, the atheists became lightning rods for fanatics. They were organized opponents of religious extremism but weak on wherewithal. In societies like ours, such folk dont get sustained mass support (lest the whatabouters rise out of the swamp and flog this essayist with the whip of partisanship, let me add the customary caveat: India isnt alone in embattling religious extremism. Pakistani and Bangladeshi dissenters have been slayed for blasphemy. Sri Lankans, including monks, who rebuked Buddhist extremists have been attacked).

In the 2010s, under Congress state governments, individuals like Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Gauri Lankesh were threatened and then assassinated. Collectively, its been long since these murders took place. There are updates in the press. But if we seek out tangible justice, theres been little headway in the investigations yet. The information trickles and the case transfers from one agency to another. One wonders if the Establishment has left these in a vacuum.

In a way, their killings signpost the social acceptance of religious violence in this era. These people were at the frontline of the fight in the hinterland against obscurantism, superstition, fanaticism, false history. In the 2010s, the attacks on the rationalists paralleled those against Muslims and caste minorities: These processes have been ongoing for long. In this setting, and as we have seen till now, all our fault-lines have dreadfully relapsed. Delhi and Uttar Pradesh look like war zones. But theres an unarticulated upshot.

This essayist finds it numbing that the many gurus, pontiffs, mahants and leaders of the major temples, sects and denominations within Hinduism havent said much over the bloodshed or the militarisation of their faith (only Narendra Modis hosts at Belur Math were irate when he turned a non-political aegis into one about citizenship). Does their collective silence show their political bent? In contrast, some non-Hindu leaders of other faiths have stepped in to engage, converse, argue with the government and its votaries.

Lynch mobs, cow vigilantes, outsider rioters in Delhi: Have we ever seen such an extrajudicial panoply? Chants of greeting as war cries; an amiable god, remobilized on car trunks, as a bellicose warrior. If one is a true imbiber of religious values, how can such violations be vindicated? Finger-pointing at the weaponizing of other religions cant be their justification. Is mimicry the only pushback?

Hinduism is rich in irreligion. Sramana, Charvaka and Nastika are schools of thought that venerate atheism, reason. For long, these have been muted, kept away from the public eye. They beg to be recalled, remade, re-presented. The atheists have a great chance to steer a set of Indians (not just Hindus) who may be born into a religion but are put off by religiosity or its extremists.

For this to happen, they will need to face up to their past. If they are to pitch their world view, they will be probed on how the Age of Reason led to imperial colonialism; how agrarian collectivisation led to the mass killings under Stalin; or Maos Cultural Revolution; or the sins of the Left in West Bengal or Kerala. They will have to be honest; and still hold their own.

Societies like ours, overdosed on religions, nary become irreligious overnight. Some sections, parts, regions might, but not en masse. Organized religion is revered, since the subcontinents nation-states fail to provide the basics of human life for the masses so often. Thus, a middle path to non-belief is salutary. The onus for this is on the atheists. They ought to fight off their alienation from the body politic of India and reinstate it as a legitimate way of being.

Communist Cuba, now sending aid to hyper-religious Italy to fight Covid-19, made that switch. The Castros, reared in an orthodox society, fought against Catholicism while in power, but made peace with the Vatican. Contemporary subcontinental society craves for this balance, where it may keep its faiths but on many public matters accord primacy to irreligious reason.

The rest is here:

Rousing the Atheists - Deccan Herald

Atheist professor says he’ll believe in God — if the coronavirus kills Donald Trump – Washington Times


A professor at Texas Tech University suggested in an email to Physics Department colleagues that he considering renouncing his atheism if get this President Donald Trump were to die from the coronavirus.

So a horrible untimely death of the president would bring this man to faith? Thats despicable.

Thats also a solid reason to take the estimated $27,000 in-state or $39,000 out-of-state costs per year to attend this school and spend the money elsewhere.

Who needs to be taught by idiots like this?

I am personally an atheist, wrote Richard Wigmans, the J.F. Bucy chair professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at TTU, in an emailed memo to his colleagues about the presidents handling of the coronavirus crisis, Campus Reform reported, but if #45 would die as a result of this virus, I might reconsider.

When confronted by Campus Reform about the quip, Wigmans said he hadnt expressed such a wish for Trump to die from the coronavirus.

He said hes being misinterpreted.

Wigmans said his statement is being blown out of proportion and taken out of context and wrongly interpreted as a death wish to the president and that this [was] a statement about myself, not about someone else.

Spoken like a true liberal: When caught red-handed, spin, spin, spin. Feign innocence, and the innocence will come.

But one has to wonder: What if Trump had said the same about, say, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? Or a member of the media? Thered be mass hyperventilating, widespread hysteria.

The takeaway is this: The mass closing of schools and colleges due to the coronavirus may actually be a blessing in disguise. Itll keep the kids away from the overeducated fools of so-called places of higher learning, if only for a few months longer.

Cheryl Chumley can be reached at[emailprotected]or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast Bold and Blunt byclicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter byclicking HERE.

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Atheist professor says he'll believe in God -- if the coronavirus kills Donald Trump - Washington Times

If Trump dies of Corona, will believe in god: Atheist Texas prof – The Siasat Daily

WASHINGTON: AtheistTexas Tech University Professor Richard Wigmans said that he will start believing in God if the United States president Donald Trump dies of, with a horrible untimely death.

In an emailed memo to his colleagues last week, Wigmans, according to areportby Campus Reform, suggestedthat he consider renouncing his atheism if Trump died after contracting the coronavirus.

I am personally an atheist but if #45 would die as a result of this virus, I might reconsider,wrote Wigmans.

Whenconfronted by Campus Reformabout the claimed, the J.F. Bucy chair professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at TTU said that his email is being misinterpreted.

This is a statement about myself, not about someone elseI have distributed some emails to my colleagues in which I provide a scientists perspective on the available COVID-19 data, and use the observed trends to make some predictions.

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If Trump dies of Corona, will believe in god: Atheist Texas prof - The Siasat Daily

Texas Tech Prof. Would Reconsider Atheism if Donald Trump Dies of Chinese Virus – Breitbart

Texas Tech University Professor Richard Wigmans told his colleagues in an email last week that he might reconsider his atheism if President Donald Trump died after contracting the Wuhan coronavirus.

According to a report by Campus Reform, Texas Tech Professor Richard Wigmans has come under fire this week for an email he sent to faculty members in which he suggested that he would reconsider his lack of faith in God if President Trump contracted the Wuhan coronavirus and died.

Wigmans, who focuses his researchesparticle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology, is referred to on his faculty profile as the worlds foremost expert on calorimetry for particle physics experiments. Calorimetry refers to the measurement of the amount of heat that is released or absorbed during a chemical reaction.

I am personally an atheist, but if #45 would die as a result of this virus, I might reconsider, Wigmans wrote in the email.

In a short comment to Campus Reform, Wigmans claimed that his email is being misinterpreted.This is a statement about myself, not about someone elseI have distributed some emails to my colleagues in which I provide a scientists perspective on the available COVID-19 data, and use the observed trends to make some predictions.

When asked directly if he hoped that President Trump would die from the virus, Wigmans blurred the line further. I have not expressed such a wish, he said.

Skyler Wachsmann, chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas at Texas Tech, condemned Wigmans for his distasteful remark.Implying that the President would enjoy for supporters of political opponents and for the elderly to suffer from this virus is disgusting, as is his comment expressing hope that President Trump would die from the Coronavirus, Wachsmann said.

Stay tuned to Breitbart News for more updates on this story.

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Texas Tech Prof. Would Reconsider Atheism if Donald Trump Dies of Chinese Virus - Breitbart

Breaking: Freedom From Religion Foundation Opposes Teaching Evolution in Public Schools – Discovery Institute

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) was founded in 1976 by a prominent American atheist and abortion advocate. As the foundations website explains: The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion.

The website also features a quote from Charles Darwins unabridged autobiography: I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true this is a damnable doctrine. Appropriately, FFRF has in the past honored prominent Darwinists Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Lawrence Krauss (among others) with its prestigious Emperor Has No Clothes award.

Although FFRF devotes most of its energy to stamping out public displays of Christianity, it has also opposed the teaching of intelligent design (ID). According to ID, it is possible to infer from evidence in nature that some features of the world, including some features of living things, result from intelligence rather than unguided natural processes. Since ID contradicts Darwins core (and atheism-friendly) belief that evolution was unguided, FFRF has long regarded ID as a form of religious creationism. As such, FFRF argues that ID cannot legally be taught in publicly funded institutions.

The crowning achievement in FFRFs crusade against ID was its 2013 takedown of Professor Eric Hedin (pronounced he-DEEN) at Ball State University (BSU) in Indiana. Evolutionary biologist and FFRF Honorary Board member Jerry Coyne led the charge. Up until 2013, BSU physics professor Eric Hedin had taught an interdisciplinary honors elective that emphasized the relationships of the sciences to human concerns and society. It explored differing viewpoints on a number of issues, including intelligent design, and the assigned readings included critics as well as defenders of ID. Hedin had prepared the class in accordance with university regulations through the usual processes.

FFRF wrote a letter to BSU complaining that Hedin was engaged in religious proselytizing. BSU ended up cancelling Hedins course.

The following September, University of Washington evolutionary biologist David Barash published a piece in the New York Times titled God, Darwin, and My College Biology Class. Barash wrote:

Every year around this time, with the college year starting, I give my students The Talk. It isnt, as you might expect, about sex, but about evolution and religion, and how they get along. More to the point, how they dont.

He continued:

The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.

According to one student, Barash then had his class of 200 undergraduates sing his version of a Hank Williams classic:

Ive wandered so aimless, life filled with doubt.I didnt know what truth was about.Then Darwin came like a stranger in the night.Praise evolution, I saw the light!

I saw the light, I saw the light.No more darkness, no more night.No higher power, but Im oh so bright.Praise evolution, I saw the light!

Inspired by Barash, FFRF added the following logo to their stationery, Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief. Two members of FFRFs Executive Board of Directors had misgivings about adopting the logo. It looks too much like religion to me, one of them said privately. But the logo remained.

Two years later, Darwinian philosopher Michael Ruse published Darwinism as Religion, which pointed out that Darwinian evolution has always functioned as much as a secular form of religion as anything purely scientific. Two more Executive Board members became uneasy at FFRFs position on evolution. But the four dissenters were in the minority, and FFRFs position remained unchanged.

Then, early in 2020, FFRF received word that a high school student had secretly taped a biology teacher making disparaging comments about the theory of evolution. Outraged, an attorney for FFRF wrote to the school district that no controversy exists in the scientific community regarding the fact of evolution, and the teaching of alternative theories or a controversy is not only inappropriate and dishonest, it is unconstitutional. The tiny rural school district lacked the resources to challenge the FFRF, which has a legal staff of ten attorneys and two legal assistants. So the superintendent merely replied that the teacher in question would comply with the New York State Education Law and the U.S. Constitution.

On February 28, 2020, the FFRF issued a press release announcing: N.Y. public school reins in proselytizing teacher, per FFRF advice. According to the press release, the teachers anti-scientific rant was both unconstitutional and pedagogically deplorable.

The incident was subsequently reviewed by an FFRF Executive Board member (not one of the four original dissenters) who had training in both biological science and constitutional law. She knew that controversy over evolution does exist in the scientific community. Furthermore, she noted that FFRFs letter to the school district cited several court decisions but left out the most relevant one: Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teaching creation science in public schools is unconstitutional, but questioning the scientific validity of evolution is not unconstitutional and may in fact be encouraged. FFRFs criticism of the teacher had been dead wrong. The board member agreed with the four dissenters who had already concluded that Darwinism was functioning as a religion.

At an emergency meeting a week ago, a majority of the members on FFRFs Executive Board of Directors voted that Darwinian evolution is, in fact, a religion. The board resolved that FFRF would henceforth oppose public funding for it and work to prohibit its teaching in public schools and universities.

Yesterday, FFRF issued a brief press release confirming the boards decision:

After long and careful deliberation The Freedom from Religion Foundation has recognized that Darwinism, like Christianity, is a religion. So the foundation now opposes the teaching or even the mention of Darwinian evolution in publicly funded institutions. Let freedom ring!

In other news: Today is April Fools Day.

Photo: A (genuine) sign in Harrisburg, PA, from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, by Jason / CC BY-SA.

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Breaking: Freedom From Religion Foundation Opposes Teaching Evolution in Public Schools - Discovery Institute

Podcast Ep. 315: COVID-19 and Bad Decision-Making | Hemant Mehta – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

In our latest podcast, Jessica and I discussed the past week in politics and atheism.

We talked about:

Hemant will be on Jeopardy on Wednesday! (0:20)

Yes, the government can force churches to close down in the pandemic. (3:48)

Liberty University is open for business for some reason. (7:45)

A Pennsylvania lawmaker proposed a resolution blaming COVID-19 on our sins. (13:30)

A boy drowned at a low-budget Creation Museum and Kent Hovind doesnt seem to care. (18:16)

Is abortion an essential health service during a pandemic? (25:13)

A Texas lawmaker praised COVID-19 for saving lives by shutting down abortion clinics. (26:45)

A pastor who said our COVID-19 response was mass hysteria died of you know what. (34:49)

A Louisiana pastor brought in 26 busloads of people for Sunday services. Hes not planning to stop. (38:01)

Oklahomas governor led a televised Christian prayer rally while Mississippis read from the Bible during a livestream. (42:57)

The White Houses Bible study leader is blaming COVID-19 on gay people and atheists. (54:30)

A Romanian priest gave communion to people with the same spoon. (57:00)

A GOP leader in Nebraska said the virus wouldnt affect them because there arent a lot of Chinese people there. (57:38)

Wed love to hear your thoughts on the podcast. If you have any suggestions for people we should chat with, please leave them in the comments, too.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play, stream all the episodes on SoundCloud or Stitcher, or just listen to the whole thing below. Our RSS feed is here. And if you like what youre hearing, please consider supporting this site on Patreon and leaving us a positive rating!

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Podcast Ep. 315: COVID-19 and Bad Decision-Making | Hemant Mehta - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

Trump’s Bible Study Leader Blames Gays, Greens, and the Godless for COVID-19 – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

Since the entire world is following the COVID-19 pandemic, changing their lives to accommodate it and thinking of little else, it stands to reason that the weekly White House Bible study group would focus on the coronavirus too.

But when said Bible study is led by Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries a man who likes to take public potshots at non-Christians, LGBTQ+ people, and working moms, among others that conversation is bound to turn ugly.

So maybe we should have predicted that this weeks Bible study, titled Is God Judging America Today? and sharply focused on whether Gods wrath is a spiritual root cause of the pandemic, would zero in on the usual suspects.

Drollinger starts by identifying five different subspecies of Gods wrath before zeroing in on the one he clearly finds most interesting: Gods forsaking wrath.

This is also referred to by theologians as the wrath of abandonment. In Romans 1:18-32 notice the following five identifying characteristics that surface when God pulls back and allows a person or group of people to go in the way of their wicked desires, i.e. God no longer restrains the fallen nature of man as He usually does.

He goes on to detail these five characteristics which arent causes of Gods forsaking wrath necessarily, but rather signs that God has given up on people and abandoned them to wallow in sin however they see fit.

So who are these fallen sinners?

Surprise! It didnt quite make headlines, but atheism is right at the top of the list!

You know God has given up on a society when youve got atheists or at least, lying liars who pretend not to know about Gods existence, since Drollinger doesnt believe in atheists:

The first evidence of the presence of Gods forsaking wrath is that people suppress (katecho), meaning to hold back that which they know is the truth. I am always amazed when people say, I dont believe in God, or I dont believe in the Bible It is not that the unregenerate dont know there is a God and His Word it is that they suppress these truths (cf. Romans 2:15). There is a big difference! [Emphasis in original]

So if you thought you didnt believe in God, pipe down. Youre wrong. And youre the reason society is currently primed to experience Gods forsaking wrath.

Youre not alone, though. Drollinger next points to environmentalists, whom he sees as apostates who serve a religion other than Christianity because environmental stewardship is itself a religion, in his eyes.

It explicitly follows from Genesis 1:26 that mankind is not equal or subservient to all that God has created; conversely he has preeminence over creation and the environment. Properly understood, God has appointed man to be His steward over the earth. Clearly indicative of Gods forsaking wrath is when the abandoned serve the creature rather than the creator. See my previous studies on the religion of environmentalism at capmin.org/biblestudies that detail this aberration.[emphasis in original]

And of course, its so obvious that LGBTQ+ people are part of Gods abandonment of America, it barely needs more than a sentence to make the point:

If youre curious, the remaining two signs that God has abandoned America to its wickedness are the lack of moral integrity and the praise heaped on those who lack it. If Drollinger sees any irony in citing those factors while working for the current administration, he gives no indication.

After focusing more than half the Bible study on the evidence for Gods forsaking wrath in our society which undeniably contains environmentalists, unbelievers, and gay people Drollinger turns tail to spend the rest of the document explaining through dense exegesis why he believes COVID-19 is not Gods forsaking wrath.

Says Drollinger in an accompanying blog post:

I dont see a forsaking form of Gods wrath in the New Testament relative to nations like those certainly on display in the Old Testament Relative to the coronavirus pandemic crisis, this is not Gods abandonment wrath nor His cataclysmic wrath, rather it is sowing and reaping wrath: a biblically astute evaluation of the situation strongly suggests that America and other countries of the world are reaping what China has sown due to their leaders recklessness and lack of candor and transparency.

Talk about a plot twist! It was China the whole time!

But even though America isnt experiencing Gods forsaking wrath through coronavirus, the people he targeted earlier as signs of it are absolutely responsible for the consequential wrath being meted out by way of COVID-19. The only reason they havent dragged America into utter abandonment is that the country still has enough good Christians to outnumber them:

Abraham, if he were to plead with God for America, would have a much stronger case than he did pleading with God for Sodom and Gomorrah.

In fact, Todays America is not by in large [sic] characterized by people who are unfaithful to Gods precepts. Conversely, there is only a small minority of individuals who are grossly disobedient to God, individuals to whom the five indicators of Romans 1 apply. Unfortunately for the vast majority of faithful individuals in America, too many of the unfaithful have been allowed by the faithful to gain high positions of influence in our culture.

Those individuals who are rebuked by Gods forsaking wrath are largely responsible for Gods consequential wrath on our nation.

Theres a lot going on in that paragraph. It sets up an us-versus-them ideology, a good-versus-evil narrative that casts the majority as good people being dragged into suffering by a powerful minority of virtual super-villains who deliberately and knowingly thumb their noses at God. It broadly blames that minority for the woes Americans currently face (including but not limited to the pandemic). And it warns readers that more suffering is to follow if these villains arent punished and made subordinate.

And this is from the Bible study document that went out to some of the most influential and powerful people in the United States of America.

(via The Intercept. Screenshot via YouTube)

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Trump's Bible Study Leader Blames Gays, Greens, and the Godless for COVID-19 - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

‘Atheism’ a straw man idea of what theists think non-believers ‘believe in’! – Patheos

Ive just seen a straw man meme from a believer that said, Atheism: the religious belief in a spontaneous, causeless, sourceless, purposeless, meaningless existence.Honestly, nothing could be more wrong in so many ways! This meme-maker is behaving like Don Quixote tilting at windmills with his lance while riding his donkey, which he imagines is a majestic steed.

The straw man fallacy is where a person argues against what they imagine their opponent thinks. Its such a waste of time and could be avoided by simply asking the other person what they actually think. But that is not what this straw man meme-maker wants to do. He wants to maliciously label people who dont belong to his group and he is not too bothered about the truth. He is inciting hatred. We have laws against that in some countries.

For a start, a-theism is not a belief system, let alone a religious belief system! Its non-belief in the beliefs of theists, thats all. It doesnt come with any other baggage. I dealt with this in my earlier article, Atheism: what is it?, but the misinformation rumbles on. (Cause/source and purpose/meaning deserve their own articles so Ill deal with them in the future.)

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'Atheism' a straw man idea of what theists think non-believers 'believe in'! - Patheos

Is privacy in pandemics like atheism in foxholes? – Reason

That's the question I debate with David Kris and Nick Weaver in this episode, as we explore the ways in which governments are using location data to fight the covid-19 virus. Phone location data is being used both to enforce quarantines and to track contacts with infected people. It's useful for both, but Nick thinks the second application may not really be ready for a year too late for this outbreak.

Our interview is with Jason Healey, who has a long history with Cyber Command and a deep recent oeuvre of academic commentary on cyberconflict. Jay explains Cyber Command's doctrine of "persistent engagement" and "defending forward" in words that I finally understand. It makes sense in terms of Cyber Command's aspirations as well as the limitations it labored under in the Obama administration, but I wonder if in the end it will be different from "deterrence through having the best offense." Nothing wrong with that, in my view as long as you have the best offense by a long shot, something that is by no means proven.

We return to the news to discover the whole idea of sunsets for national security laws looking dumber than it did when it first saw the light of day (which is saying something). Several important FISA authorities have expired, Matthew Heiman reports. That's thanks to Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, I might add (though Nick blames President Trump, who certainly put his boot in too). Both House and Senate passed measures to keep FISA authorities alive, but the measures were completely different and out of sync. Maybe the House will fix the problem this week, but only by extending the deadline for a couple of months. Because of course by then we'll be rested and ready, in the middle of a contagion and a Presidential campaign, for a debate over Sen. Paul's proposal to make it harder to wiretap and prosecute Americans who spy for foreign governments.

Maybe before they did all that naming and shaming of Russian government hackers, federal prosecutors should have worked on their aiming: The US Justice Department has now dropped Robert Mueller's charges against a sponsor of Russian electoral interference, Matthew tells us. We explore two fever-dream narratives that the whole prosecution was part of a witch hunt and that the Attorney General is just sabotaging Bob Mueller's righteous crusade. You don't have to believe either to conclude that the Mueller team should have thought a little more about how it would try the case and a little less about how convenient it was to be able to tell the IRA story in an indictment. CyberScoop Wall Street Journal

There's another major leak about government skullduggery in cyberspace, David tells us, and Wikileaks is, uh, nowhere to be seen. That's because the skulldugging government in question is Vladimir Putin's, and Wikileaks is looking more and more like Putin's lapdog. So it falls to a group called Digital Revolution to publish internal FSB documents showing Russia's determination to acquire a huge DDOS network, maybe enough to take whole nations offline.

Alan Cohn makes a guest appearance to discuss the role that DHS's CISA is playing in the covid-19 crisis. And it has nothing to do with cybersecurity. Instead, CISA is ensuring the security of critical infrastructure around the country by identifying facilities that need to keep operating, notwithstanding state lockdown orders. We talk about the federalism crisis that could come from the proliferation of critical infrastructure designations but neither of us expects it soon.

Here's a surprise: Russia is deploying coronavirus disinformation, claiming that it is a US bioweapon. Uncharacteristically, I find myself praising the European Union for flagging the campaign.

Nick talks about the ambiguity of the cyberattack on Norsk Hydro, and I raise the risk that companies may stop releasing attribution information pointing to nation states because doing so may undercut their insurance claims.

Finally, we wrap up the story of ex-Uber autonomous driving executive Anthony Levandowski, who pled guilty to trade-secret theft and is likely headed to prison for a year or three.

Download the 307th Episode (mp3).

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Is privacy in pandemics like atheism in foxholes? - Reason

Christians Convert To Atheism And Pray To Science – Patheos

America was once full of Christians. Catholics, Baptists, and other denominations littered the landscape with cries of Hallelujah! and Youre going to Hell for butt stuff! Among industrialized nations, the United States was an outlier. While countries like Germany, Italy, and Britain enjoyed a post-Christian culture, the USA was still firmly in the hands of an angry God and His confused worshippers.

With the COVID-19 epidemic, the religious landscape is changing. The virus that is wrecking the world economy is taking a toll on traditional faith. Many Christians are seeing the light. They are turning away from Christianity and reaching for science.

Professor Andrew Canard heads the Sociology Department at the Theological Institute of Technology (TIT). He notes those who are turning away from the cross dont seem to know how to science:

The coronavirus is showing how empty the promises of Jehovah are. In some parts of the Bible God tells worshippers He will protect them, and at other times God tells people to take their lumps and theyll get their reward in heaven. Its crazy.

Whats disturbing is that these new followers of science are exchanging one God for another. They dont seem to understand science is a process.Rather, they are treating science as another deity to worship.

Professor Canard states these new science believers typically follow their new science-faith in certain ways:

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Christians Convert To Atheism And Pray To Science - Patheos

As religion re-emerges as the faultline of Indian society, could Bhagat Singh’s ideas of atheism be a way… – Firstpost

In Amitav Ghoshs novel The Shadow Lines, the unnamed narrators grandmother whom he addresses as Tha'mma talks of how as a student in Dhaka, she wanted to join the revolutionary movement that was active in Bengal in the first decade of the 20th century. She talks of revolutionary societies like Jugantar and Anushilan and how a quiet, retiring classmate of hers turned out to be a member of one of them. These societies which were part of the first wave of the revolutionary movement propagated a programme of violent resistance to British rule by assassinating prominent British officials in their bid to state the case for Indias freedom. Highly motivated, secretive and daring, for a time, they caught the imagination of the public. Eventually, the British came down hard on them, sending several to the gallows.

But what remains unsaid is that while these societies were popular and patriotic, they were also characterised by a strong Hindu element in ideology and practice. They drew on the literature of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Swami Vivekananda for inspiration, swore oaths on the Bhagavad Gita and often worshipped arms in the presence of an idol of Goddess Durga. It appears that non-Hindus found virtually no place in the movement.

Bhagat Singh. Image via WikimediaCommons

By contrast, the second wave of the revolutionary movement that grabbed the centre stage from the early 1920s and formed an important of the anti-colonial movement during that entire decade till the execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev on March 23, 1931, was distinctly non-religious. While some individual members did observe their faith privately, religion formed no part of the rituals and conduct of the organisation itself. Arguably, in large part, this was on account of the convictions of Bhagat Singh.

In a long essay, Why I am an Atheist, written and completed in 1931, a few days before his hanging, Bhagat Singh laid bare the nature of his lack of faith. In a nuanced and well-argued stance, he traces how his atheism came to be. Clearly, atheism wasnt part of his childhood. His grandfather was an orthodox Arya Samajist and as a boarder at the DAV School, Lahore, the teenaged Bhagat Singh was in fact given to reciting the Gayatri Mantra several times a day. This habit lapsed in time, but not his faith in God. His close compatriot in revolutionary activities, Sachindra Nath Sanyal, was a fervent believer as well as were some of his other fellow-travellers in the revolutionary movement.

But in spite of keeping such company, by 1926, Bhagat Singhs faith had lapsed. In his own words, Realism became our cult. Atheism seemed to be the outcome of the extensive programme of the reading of revolutionary literature that Bhagat Singh had embarked on in the years prior to his final lapse of faith. And it was atheism that did not waver till his dying day.

"Belief softens the hardships, even can make them pleasant. In God man can find very strong consolation and support," Bhagat Singh states in the essay. But, given that many trials and tribulations lay ahead of him, what is perhaps of interest is how faith did not make a comeback to Bhagat Singhs life. By his own telling, his first arrest in May 1927 over suspected complicity in the Kakori Case did not send him scurrying to faith. In fact, the police officers who arrested him actually encouraged him to pray, perhaps as a veiled threat of sorts since they probably intended to apply third-degree methods to him. But it didnt make a dent.

Later, even when his execution was imminent, religious belief remained conspicuous by its absence. Clearly, faith had completely left him leaving no traces behind. Bhagat Singhs objection to faith and God seemed to be both philosophical as well as springing from the severe religious unrest that he observed around him which marred regular life in 1920s India. This was a matter that Bhagat Singh had also written on prior to 1931.

In an article entitled Religion and National Politics published in the journal Kirti, in May 1928, Bhagat Singh talks of how religion is proving to be a barrier to national unity and preventing people from moving forward in their quest for independence. The practices of social distancing mandated by religious leaders were proving to be a huge obstacle. Equally, religions habit of demanding complete submission was in Bhagat Singhs opinion, weakening individuals, and not helping to build their self-confidence.

Similarly, in another article, Communal Problem and Its Solution, published in the same journal the following month, Bhagat Singh comments darkly on the recent Lahore communal riots. These riots were prompted by the publication of a controversial book called Rangila Rasul by an individual with Arya Samaji persuasions which the Muslim community found offensive. On the other hand, cow slaughter was a sore point with the Hindu community. These differences were then sought to be resolved with daggers and fists. The article castigates the members of all three religious communities (Hindu, Muslim and Sikh) for their inability to keep a cool head in the face of provocation and the political leadership for their inability to play a constructive role. Interestingly, the article also takes to task the press and journalists for instigating communal tension through mischievous headlines and reports. The economic question, Bhagat Singh believes, is at the root of much of the tension and to attempt to solve that problem is to strike at the heart of the matter.

The impression that one gathers when re-reading these articles is that little has changed in close to a hundred years. On the one hand, it is tempting to say that religion has re-emerged as the faultline of Indian society in the last decade. But it appears that a heightened awareness of religious (and caste) differences was never very far away from the surface all along. Hence the inability of people to band together to demand more from elected representatives and the bureaucratic machinery. The nation has meandered along for seven decades riding on the back of some noteworthy achievements, but with most urgent tasks to do with economic matters left undone.

How then can we hope to plot our way forward?

In a country like India, while atheism is bound to have limited appeal, could we hope to make realism our cult? Could the sobering fact of widespread poverty, poor educational accomplishments and our lackadaisical health-care system not to mention the doddering economy and the agricultural crisis force us to look away from our religious and caste differences and concentrate on more compelling matters instead? The distractions that media and political leadership throw at us are not going to go away. It is up to us to look away.

That would perhaps be the greatest tribute to Bhagat Singh.

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As religion re-emerges as the faultline of Indian society, could Bhagat Singh's ideas of atheism be a way... - Firstpost

Imagine There’s No Imagine – Splice Today

Actress Gal Gadot recorded a video in which she and a bunch of celebrity friends like Natalie Portman and Mark Ruffalo sang an inspirational song to cheer people up during the coronavirus pandemic and associated social isolation and economic collapse. Many critics quickly rushed to mock Gadot's off-key rendition. I'd like to take a minute to dump on the song she chose. John Lennon's "Imagine" has always been terrible.

"Imagine" was originally released in 1971, with full overblown Phil Spector muzak production and Lennon's voice drenched in unnecessary echo effects. The repetitive keyboard hook is as ostentatiously glib as the worst work of Lennon's Beatle co-writer Paul McCartney, and the string section saws away with sententious sentimentality. The tune is simultaneously pompous and simplistic. It's no accident that Gadot decided this was the song that would best project her irritating smugness to the world.

And then there are the lyrics. Inspired by his wife Yoko Ono's poetry, Lennon wrote a paean to the liberating and pacifist potential of atheism. "Imagine there's no heaven/Its easy if you try/No hell below us/Above us only sky/Imagine all the people living for today," he warbled.

As an atheist, I appreciate the mildly subversive provocation here; gloppy pop isn't usually forthrightly anti-Christian. But it's depressing to see the bland Christmas-song faith in a God wholl set everything right replaced with a bland anti-Christmas-song faith in a lack of a God wholl set everything right.

I'm aware that Christians, and proponents of other religions, have done terrible things to each other over the centuries. The Inquisition, the Crusades, the genocide of native peoples in the name of conversion, and the white Christian evangelical nationalist fervor that helped elect Trump so he could set up concentration camps at the border. If you were an atheist and committed to puffing yourself up, you could look at the sins of religion and convince yourself that without heaven we'd all be at peace.

But the record of actual atheists who don't believe in heaven isnt great either. Stalin's atheism didnt make him non-violent. The new atheist rationalism led by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens is characterized by rabid, militarist Islamophobia and enthusiastic support for various wars in the Middle East. And John Lennon was not the shining icon of anti-saintly virtue his song suggests. He was a negligent father and an unfaithful and abusive husband to his first wife. And though she inspired his anti-war activism and embrace of social and political causes, he didn't treat Yoko Ono especially well either.

Lennon's song "God" from his Plastic Ono Band album is a much more effective anthem. The music is raw and trudging, and Lennon sounds like each word is being torn from him as he hoarsely sing/screams that he doesn't believe in Jesus, Kennedy, yoga, Elvis, or the Beatles. "I just believe in me/Yoko and me." The song is a personal assault on his own idols and gods, in an effort to strip away the inessential and find what actually matters to him. It's solipsistic, in the way of all confessional art. But it's also abrasive, off-putting and mean. If you're going to go after God, the least you can do is bring a little hellfire.

"Imagine," though, has no hellfire. It congratulates its audience on their snug (lack of) beliefs. It asks people to imagine a better world, but does so without demanding either rigor or much imagination. If "Imagine" really challenged the comfortable, as it pretends, the comfortable wouldn't be so eager to sing it, off-key or otherwise.

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Imagine There's No Imagine - Splice Today

Why an Irish Buddhist resisted empire in Burma – OUPblog

On 2 March 1901, during the full moon festival at Rangoons Shwedagon pagoda, the Buddhist monk U Dhammaloka confronted an off-duty colonial policeman and ordered him to take off his shoes. Burmese pagodas are stupas, containing relics of the Buddha, so wearing shoes on them (as white colonials did) was a serious mark of disrespect. Choosing his target well, Dhammaloka engaged in an act of non-violent resistance that provoked a local political crisis but also launched shoes as an issue that would become central to later Burmese nationalism until 1919. The shoe controversy made respect for Buddhism a challenge to racial hierarchies and colonial power.

Religion and race also came together in the monks bare feet. Born Laurence Carroll in Ireland, he had crossed America as a hobo and sailed two oceans before converting to Buddhism and ordaining in Rangoon in 1900. Yet Europeans still expected him to wear shoes, a key marker of racial difference intended to buttress colonial power. Going nativeincluding abandoning European dresswas not only part of his required clothing as abhikkhubut marked his defection from this symbolic racial order. So too, of course, did his ritual subordination to an Asian hierarchy and a non-Christian religion in a world where empire increasingly justified itself at home by its capacity to bring the Christian gospel to the heathen masses.

Echoing traditionalist Burmese views, which saw the British defeat of the Burmese monarchy as a sign of the decline of Buddhism, Dhammaloka would build his career as an anti-colonial celebrity activist around opposition to what he called the Bible, the whiskey bottle and the Gatling gun missionary Christianity, cultural destruction (given Buddhisms opposition to alcohol) and military conquest. If his bare white feet undermined the racial hierarchies of empire, his monks tonsure challenged the military and the missionary.

Dhammaloka brought together the persona of the Irish rebel with the developing figure of the activist Buddhist monk, in a life that continually challenged power. We know of five different aliases but little of the 25-year gap in his biography before 1900, during which he learned the skills of effective activism in one or another of the radical movements of late nineteenth-century America: freethought (atheism), labour organising, Irish republicanism, socialism, or anarchism. We find him under police and intelligence surveillance and put on trial for sedition. He seemingly dies at least twice.

Dhammaloka brought a distinctive Irish sensibility to his anti-colonialism. As the movement for Catholic emancipation had shown, if empires support for its own religion overstepped the markas on the Shwedagon in 1901rebels could use local religion as a force for resistance, which the colonial power could not be seen to tread too heavily upon. Dhammaloka pioneered this form of symbolic confrontation in Burma, for Buddhism rather than for Catholicism; but the arguments he used against missionary Christianity were not traditional Buddhist ones but those of western freethinkers, published in huge numbers by his Buddhist Tract Society. Convicted for sedition for a version of his slogan about the Bible, the bottle and the Gatling gun, Dhammaloka danced out of reach and continued his provocative challenge to power.

Dhammalokas dramatic life helps us understand how people used religion to engage with vast processes of change. Within a generation of his disappearance, popular movements had swept the British empire out of Asia, in many cases replacing it with nation-states founded on an ethno-religious basis. Yet before Irish independence, the pan-Asian Buddhist revival contained many imagined futures, and many different actors. Burmese peasants and Sri Lankan villagers flocked to Dhammalokas sermons, but his Buddhist projects also involved a Singapore Chinese businessman and a Shan chieftain. We find him based in monasteries of the Dawei ethnic minority in three countries and part of Japanese elite projects for international Buddhist networking. He ran Buddhist schools in Singapore and Thailand and was also active in India, Bangladesh, China, Australia, and present-day Malaysia.

All of this reflected the deeper ethnic complexity and transnationalism of a world of port cities, migrant labourers, trading diasporas, and poor whites. It was a sort of plebeian cosmopolitanism in which the Chinese, Indian, and Burmese bazaars of Rangoon closed down in support of an Irish ex-sailor gone native, who drew on the radical literature of American and British atheism to challenge imperial Christianity on behalf of Burmese Buddhists. If this story was lost for a century because it did not fit with mono-ethnic accounts of nationhood (and sanitised accounts of western Buddhism), it now offers us a window onto these wider currents that would help to bring about the end of empire and the rise of todays global Buddhism.

Featured Image Credit: Shwedagon Pagoda via Wikimedia Commons

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Why an Irish Buddhist resisted empire in Burma - OUPblog

NUS says NUS Atheist Society Facebook page not affiliated with university – Mothership.sg

The National University of Singapore has issued a statement to inform the public that the NUS Atheist Society Facebook page is not affiliated with the tertiary institution.

The statement by NUS was posted on March 20, after law and home affairs minister K Shanmugam slammed a post by the page that was deemed offensive to Muslims and Christians in Singapore:

The police are investigating the case.

NUS said in its statement it had on two occasions requested Facebook to look into the legitimacy of the account.

Facebook looked into the request, NUS added, but the social media giant had apparently responded that people are unlikely to be confused about the source, sponsorship or affiliation of NUS Atheist Society.

NUS said it will continue to press Facebook to drop all references to NUS.

This is NUSs statement in full:

NUS had reported the NUS Atheist Society Facebook page to Facebook last year and again on 19 March 2020. On both occasions, we requested that Facebook look into the legitimacy of the account.

Facebook has responded to say that the content on the reported site does not appear likely to confuse people as to source, sponsorship or affiliation, and they are unable to act on our report at this time.

We wish to clarify that NUS has no relationship with the NUS Atheist Society and the Facebook page is not affiliated to the University. The contents posted by the NUS Atheist Society do not represent the views, opinions and position of the University. We will continue pressing Facebook to get the group to drop all references to NUS.

In a unexpected development, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) announced on March 21 that it would be suspending the membership of one of its members, Jan Chan, with immediate effect.

PSP added that it is not linked to the NUS Atheist Society, and that it will work to ensure that all its members keep within the boundaries of the law.

PSP also said internal investigations are being conducted for actions made in Chans personal capacity.

The NUS Atheist Society Facebook page is still active as of March 21.

As per Facebooks notification to the NUS Atheist Society, the visibility of the post that featured the holy books of Muslims and Christians has been curtailed.

In a post Saturday afternoon post, the NUS Atheist Society page offered an apology of sorts:

The post said:

It was never my intent to suggest or encourage using two holy books as toilet paper. To that effect, the use of the holy books was intentionally left unspecified and to the interpretation of the audiences imagination. The news media, however, picked up one version of the story and thus, we are where we are.

My intent had been to demonstrate that a purposely vague statement, left to interpretation, could be and would be interpreted in the worst possible way. And, in seeing that the audience of this page are mainly either non-religious or familiar with this style of provocative humour, I had not considered that the post would reach the wider public.

If I had caused personal distress and emotional distress, I sincerely apologise and I am truly sorry. If however, the post had merely elicited outrage, then I would like to kindly request not to instinctively lodge a report to the police or higher authorities to demand satisfaction. Leave a comment and start that the civil conversation in society about questioning religion that atheism has for so long called for, but has thus far been ignored.

It had prior to this apology posted other pieces of content:

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NUS says NUS Atheist Society Facebook page not affiliated with university - Mothership.sg

What Name Comes to Mind When You Think of Atheism? Many Americans Say Satan – Patheos

Who is the first person who comes to mind when you think of atheism?

Mind you, that doesnt mean the person is the most famous atheist. Just the name that comes up when you think of the word.

The Pew Research Center asked that question, along with similar ones concerning the major world religions, and they just released the responses. It wont surprise you to learn that Buddhism prompted Buddha (55% of respondents said that) or that Catholicism led to the Pope (47%).

Perhaps its a bit surprising that 21% associated Billy Graham with Evangelical Protestantism, more than any other single person, given that he died in 2018 and stopped preaching regularly long before then, though many of the more prominent evangelicals today are better known for politics than religion.

But when it came to atheism, the one name that came to mind more than any other was

6% of Americans thought Satan when prompted with atheism. Which doesnt even make sense. But there you go.

51% of Americans couldnt think of anyone, 10% said it was someone they knew personally (i.e. someone whos not famous), 26% gave a smattering of random answers (i.e. people who arent famous enough), and 4% each said Richard Dawkins and Madalyn Murray OHair (who was murdered in 1995).

There were some other names on the longer results list, many of whom were included in that 26% of random answers.

Theres astrophysicist Stephen Hawking (2%), comedian Bill Maher (2%), author Christopher Hitchens (1%) and, for whatever reason, Jesus (1%).

The big takeaway for me is that there really isnt any prominent atheist these days the sort of person who can cut through the atheism-only bubble and talk about it to a mainstream audience. The names that come up today are probably the same ones that wouldve come up a decade ago. Atheists arent as well known because atheism has become less of an issue since the New Atheism hype in the mid-2000s.

These results come from the same survey in which people were asked about their religious knowledge. As you may recall, Jewish respondents fared the best, closely followed by atheists and agnostics. But none of the groups did exceptionally well.

Many people dont know much about religion, period. So its no wonder that the most famous people associated with various belief systems arent necessarily ones that make sense. No living (or even recently alive) Jewish person made the popularity list. Even for evangelicals, the big names who were alive this century were Graham and Jerry Falwell (the despicable dead one, not his despicable son).

Or, if you want to spin that in a good way, it means there are openings for people who speak about their religious views to break into the American consciousness regardless of background. Just as we can always use strong science communicators, it would be wonderful to have a (literally new) atheist who can break through our own bubble, who the media can turn to for comment, and who isnt cringe-worthy in a variety of other ways. Its not something you can just volunteer for, but it starts by finding a way to advocate those views in a way that doesnt turn the whole world against you.

At least we can hope for that. The alternative is having an atheist version of Falwell, the sort of person you have to constantly apologize for instead of point to when your belief comes up.

(Featured image via Shutterstock)

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What Name Comes to Mind When You Think of Atheism? Many Americans Say Satan - Patheos

Exclusive Interview William Shaw on Doctor Who, his new book about The Rings of Akhaten, and more (Part One) – Flickering Myth

Alex Moreland interviews William Shaw about Doctor Who, his new book about The Rings of Akhaten, and more

I recently sat down with William Shaw a writer and blogger originally from Sheffield, now based in London, whose work has appeared in Star*Line, Space & Time, The Martian Wave, The Oxford Culture Review, and Doctor Who Magazine to discuss his upcoming book about The Rings of Akhaten. Its the latest in the Black Archive series published by Obverse Books; each book takes an in-depth look at a different episode of Doctor Who.

What follows is a wide-ranging discussion, getting to grips with Williams love for the controversial Series 7 episode, how it engages with and critiques both New Atheism and imperialism, and what its like to write a book about Doctor Who.

So, lets start with the obvious question. Why The Rings of Akhaten? What do you like about it?

I think its one of the boldest, most ambitious, and most radical episodes in all of Doctor Who. Its a heartfelt story, lushly realised and beautifully performed. Its a vital early step in the journey of Clara Oswald, the best companion (and arguably the best Doctor) the show has ever had. Its an early commentary on the shows fiftieth anniversary. And, as I talk about in the book, its a fascinating engagement with contemporary politics. I basically think its a critique of New Atheism (cf Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc) and its relationship to Doctor Who, but in doing that it necessarily touches on the legacy of colonialism, and Clara and Merrys relationship in the story is an interesting way into some topics from feminist theory. Like Claras leaf, it looks simple, but it contains multitudes.

Youve written forty thousand words about The Rings of Akhaten. Can you tell us a little about the different ideas/analysis youve touched on? Is there anything that might particularly surprise people? Or indeed that surprised you?

My starting point, as I say, was New Atheism, and talking about that necessarily meant bringing in some postcolonial theory, particularly Edward Said. Its remarkable how unimpressive the arguments of, say, Sam Harris really are when you realise Said was already on top of them in 1978. I also brought in some feminist theory, and Chandra Talpade Mohantys book Feminism Without Borders was really helpful in structuring the second chapter.

Of course, theres been plenty of good academic work about Doctor Who, and I was very impressed by Lindy Orthias work, although I didnt quote much of it directly. Matt Hills writing about the media event of Doctor Whos fiftieth anniversary was really useful, especially in chapter four where I talk about how The Rings of Akhaten ties in with that anniversary. Then of course theres the other Black Archives; Kate Ormans on Pyramids of Mars and Alyssa Frankes on Hell Bent were my favourites, and provided good models for what I wanted to do.

The most pleasant surprise in researching the book was when I was reading the contemporary reviews, and found out that Charlie Jane Anders had written about the episode. Shes one of my favourite authors working at the moment, so it was really nice to get her perspective.

Do you need to have an academic background at all to understand some of the ideas in the book?

I hope not! Having just name-dropped all that academic theory, I always aimed this book at the general reader (alright, maybe someone with more Doctor Who knowledge than the general reader, but still). I hope the book can be some peoples way into that academic theory; I think Doctor Who fandom would be in a much better place if more people had read Orientalism, for example. But you dont need to have studied this stuff to follow the book. I took care to explain academic concepts whenever I introduced them, and I dont think theres anything in the bibliography beyond a first-year undergrad level. My main editor, Philip Purser-Hallard, was very good at pointing out when I needed to explain things further or correct mistakes.

So, for those who are unfamiliar, could you explain what New Atheism and Orientalism actually are? How are they relevant to Doctor Who?

New Atheism is quite a broad phenomenon, but basically it refers to an uptick in popular atheist writing and political activity in Europe and America in the mid-to-late 2000s. Being the mid-to-late 2000s, it bears a clear relationship to the War on Terror, and the reactionary Islamophobia of that time (and this one). The most famous New Atheists are the Four Horsemen: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. In the book I mostly concentrate on their writing, but the movement was large, and Very Online, so its influence can still be felt today, especially on social media and sites like YouTube.

Orientalism is a concept originally created by the literary theorist Edward Said, in his 1978 book Orientalism, and its foundational to postcolonial theory. Very basically, it refers to the intellectual paradigm by which western imperial powers have historically understood the East, or the Orient, with little or no reference to those regions actual histories and cultures. The Orient is simultaneously ancient and childlike, in need of protection and care from enlightened, mature westerners. Which is terribly convenient if you happen to be a colonial power. I highly recommend people read Orientalism, and the follow-up, Culture and Imperialism; theyre very rich but also very readable.

These two things interact with each other, of course; theres quite a bit of Orientalist thinking in New Atheism, and Said was actually friends with Christopher Hitchens at one point. But they both also interact with Doctor Who. The New Atheist movement was roughly contemporary with Russell T Davies revival of the show; Davies has said he took Bad Wolf from Dawkins idea of the meme. Pretty much any time religion comes up in the Davies era, theres a clear New Atheist influence. Orientalism goes back even further; the whole show comes out of the Victorian tradition of adventure fiction, which is just soaked in the attitudes Said describes. How many times has the Doctor visited an alien world with an ancient, mystical past populated by ignorant, squabbling aliens? How many times has he stepped in as an enlightened outsider to fix another peoples culture? Its not fair to single out Doctor Who in this, really, because its just endemic to so much science fiction.

I understand that the first time you watched the episode, it left you a little cold what was it that clicked for you the second time around?

Thats right, and this is something I talk about in the book. The key was making that connection with New Atheism. I remember watching it on broadcast and just going Yeah, that was OK, but a few years later I happened to listen to a podcast criticising the history of New Atheism around the time Series 7 was being repeated (or was showing up on iPlayer, anyway). It was like fitting together pieces of a jigsaw. Realising that the Doctor wasnt necessarily in the right, that the episode was about him making a crucial mistake, was what really cracked it for me; it became a whole new episode. Which is the story of that whole series, really.

The Rings of Akhaten is a little controversial, as an episode of Doctor Who. What would you say to the people who arent so fond?

Give it a watch with fresh eyes. Once you have the context of the rest of the series, and especially of Claras development through the Capaldi era, its much easier to see what the episode is going for, and largely succeeding at. Id also say, keep an open mind to the setting; one of my favourite things about Doctor Who is that it can show us such strange and captivating worlds, things like The Web Planet or The End of the World. If you can groove on that sense of exploration, and are willing to be surprised, I think the quality of the film-making really shines through.

Its also situated in a run of episodes which are themselves looked on a little less than fondly theres a school of thought that says Series 7 is the weakest of the Steven Moffat era. Youre an ardent defender of that series what is it you like about them?

Series 7 is my favourite of the Matt Smith era. There are lots of reasons for this, but foremost is the sheer quality of the individual stories. It has a rich variety of settings and styles, and a fantastic sense of forward momentum; it has the best series opener/companion introduction of the entire Moffat era in The Bells of St John, it has some of the best episodes Chris Chibnall and Mark Gatiss ever wrote, and its topped off by the two best specials Doctor Who has ever done. Its also, I think, the best Doctor Who has ever looked; Saul Metzstein, Nick Hurran, Colm McCarthy, Farren Blackburn, and Jamie Payne are among the shows best directors, and the cinematography is consistently beautiful.

Its also a fascinating celebration of the shows fiftieth anniversary. Its joyful and triumphant, yes, but theres real thought, and at times a slight anxiety, about the show and its history. Its a celebration, but its not uncritical. Theres a sense of hooray, we made it fifty years! But how can we keep moving forward? And its answer to that question is The Capaldi/Coleman era, which, as answers go, is pretty great. Its this fascinating bridge between the two halves of the Moffat era, past and present and future all jumbled together, like some sort of hybrid or something.

Do you think The Rings of Akhaten, and Series 7 more broadly, are due a critical reappraisal soon?

Absolutely. If theres one thing I want to achieve with this book (other than, hopefully, being interesting to read), its to try and shift fandoms view of this episode. There are plenty of fans who love the episode, of course, and thats great, but I think if fandom in general can see even part of what I see in it, then my work is done.

As for series 7, I think it is due a reappraisal pretty soon. Now that the Chibnall era is in full swing, now Moffat and Smith arent such an active concern, and the buzz of media hype and fan discussions has died down a bit, I think theres space for people to go back to that series with the benefit of hindsight.

Lets talk about actually writing the book. Where did that begin for you? What was the process like?

I have a few friends from university who are Doctor Who fans, and we occasionally meet up to have lunch and watch old episodes together. We were having a gathering in October 2017, and I thought this might be an opportunity to road-test my opinions on Akhaten. They very kindly agreed to watch The Rings of Akhaten and let me give a half-hour lecture, so I wrote about 6,000 words and delivered them there. The reception was really great, and my friends gave me lots of helpful feedback; theyre all included in the books acknowledgements. I took this initial lecture and their feedback, and refined that into my pitch to Obverse Books, which they very kindly accepted at the start of 2018. After that, as you can imagine, I was off to the races.

Excitingly, youve got an exclusive interview with Farren Blackburn, the director of the episode. How did you go about setting that up? Can you tell us anything about what Farren told you?

The credit for that goes to one of my editors, Paul Simpson. He edits Sci-Fi Bulletin, and they interviewed Farren Blackburn about The Innocents around the time I was writing the first draft. So Paul put us in touch, and Farren very kindly agreed to an interview. I dont want to spoil too much, but he gave some really nice insights, particularly around his direction of actors. Its an underappreciated aspect of directing, I think, especially on Doctor Who, but he got a great set of performances out of his cast, and it was fascinating to hear some of the thought process behind that. He also very kindly gave me permission to publish a behind-the-scenes document he wrote early in production. I remember grinning when I first read it, his enthusiasm just jumps off the page. Farren has been very generous with his time, and very patient with this strange fanboy talking incessantly about the episode he worked on seven years ago. Im very grateful to him for that.

Check back this Saturday for the second part of our interview with William, as we ask him what he thinks Neil Cross mightve been like as Doctor Who showrunner, what he thinks of depictions of faith in the Jodie Whittaker era, and more!

William Shaws Black Archive on The Rings of Akhaten is available now. You can find William online here, or on Twitter @Will_S_7.

Photo Credit: Lweendo Emmanuel Ndawana

Alex Morelandis a freelance writer and television critic; you canfollow him on Twitter here, orcheck out his website here.

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Exclusive Interview William Shaw on Doctor Who, his new book about The Rings of Akhaten, and more (Part One) - Flickering Myth

Colby Cosh: As disgusting as it sounds, obedience is a virtue with coronavirus – National Post

The joke going around in virus land is that there are no libertarians in a pandemic, just as there are no atheists in foxholes. For some people this is, no doubt, a joke with a double meaning. Even if atheists may be less willing to climb into foxholes than Presbyterians or Yazidis in the first place, the study of soldier experiences and war literature suggests that combat is pretty darn good at sowing materialism and encouraging questioning of revealed wisdom.

Yes, there are atheists in foxholes, dummy, even if they didnt bring atheism with them; and even if a pandemic teaches lessons in the usefulness of capable, powerful government, it perhaps has just as many about the harmfulness and stupidity of government as it generally exists in the real world.

The United States, to take one infuriating example, is about to have an awful lot of unnecessary deaths because, through ill-considered peacetime regulation, it allowed its national disease-surveillance agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to acquire what was tantamount to a manufacturing monopoly on DNA testing of virus samples. It wasnt a competent monopoly, either, as things turned out. We are still seeing American news items about academic and private laboratories the kinds of places that developed DNA sequencing in the first place, and which were its exclusive domain until recently that hope to help increase testing capacity, but must wait for permission from the federal paterfamilias.

The United States is about to have an awful lot of unnecessary deaths

Meanwhile, the evidence from countries that have already had proper battles with novel coronavirus, as opposed to our preliminary skirmishes, mostly seems to carry the message For the love of God, test as much as you can. So good luck to the Americans, and also (gulp) to us: it is starting to appear as though one of the tightest bottlenecks in scaling up lab testing might be fraction-of-a-cent nasopharyngeal swabs, rather than sequencing appliances or virus samples.

Anyway, thats a digression, one that I cant resist because the narrative of central government failure suits my taste. But some of you will be asking why beautiful free markets havent provided us with more of those swabs. Still, its not quite just to say that every libertarian turns into a cringing supplicant of the state in a pandemic. Yes, right now a lot of Canadians are relieved that a state with the power to lock up businesses, arenas and churches in the name of public safety also has the power to send cheques from the future to the people who have lost their jobs.

I approve of all this too, since I am lucky enough to have a career that benefits a little from crisis and chaos. We need to help those people whose work is actual work, and who cannot do that work because an act of God requires exceptional remedies. But it is fairly easy to see how the crisis could be exploited to injure civil liberties permanently, as opposed to just re-habituating us to welfare, which some politicians are unabashedly keen on. Anyone who lived through 9/11 already knows this in his bones.

Medical privacy is already something we relax when it comes to the reporting of infectious disease. You will hear the argument that we make a fetish of it that clinical research would be so much easier without it, as it is when human research subjects voluntarily surrender it. There will also be pundits and experts along soon to say how convenient it would be if cellphone tracking data, which would be real handy for cops and working epidemiologists doing disease surveillance, were available a little more freely.

And as our time in social lockdown creeps along, you and I will I promise! grow less patient with those who defy it brazenly, or those who are otherwise irresponsible about social distancing. Isnt due process of law an awful lot of trouble? The police have batons and sidearms, dont they?

Medical privacy is already something we relax when it comes to the reporting of infectious disease

The realistic libertarian understands the distinction probably not invented by Murray Rothbard, but that is where I personally got it from between society and the state, between social action and government powers based on retaliatory violence. A mess like this demonstrates the difference to all of us. Why does liberal democracy function reasonably well, when enlightened despotism (bound by strong rules about individual rights, or not) is always an alternative?

One reason is that, in emergencies, the state can take extraordinary steps with some show of consent or pre-existing licence from society (which itself does most of the heavy lifting, and even most of the enforcement). When society is chronically at odds with the state, even for good historical reasons, you end up with Italy a wonderful place to be most of the time, but not right now.

I may not have voted for Jason Kenney or Justin Trudeau, but we did, and an epidemic is a situation in which the necessity for us to work in concert is overwhelming. We have an extraordinary selfish incentive to obey, however hateful and nauseous the word obedience may be to us. Democracy is a transparent fiction which rises unbidden to vivid realness at such a time, as it would if we were confronted with a visible invader.

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Colby Cosh: As disgusting as it sounds, obedience is a virtue with coronavirus - National Post

Have atheists become defenders of the good? – The Tablet

There is a frightening word to which many people in the Church have closed their minds, which is gaining support at a rapid rate of knots and threatens to leave practising Catholics behind in its wake. That word is "humanist".

With that word, humanist, many people now describe not just themselves, but also the things they respect. Often Catholics do not approve of the word. Disapproving, they ignore the change; ignoring it, they drop out of the culture.

Last year the number of humanist funerals soared in Scotland and humanist weddings did so in England and Wales. English couples rushed to use Scotlands more post-Christian arrangements. This Christmas, humanist pastors started work in Northern Ireland.

Christians usually see these trends as events impinging on Christianity, when in fact they are occurring without it and have positive content themselves. Perhaps the feeling of being on the back foot in these culture wars has again made it congenial to Catholics to think institutionally and defensively. But thats no good.

A missionary Church cannot fall behind the things which its audience cares about, especially if it does not want to fall in with them. Yet how many Catholics inquire to see what makes humanism so attractive a term or to wonder if anything in that attraction is Christian?

What is happening is that humanist has become the main way to describe and defend that which is spiritual.

In the Observer, Mark Kermode praised 1917 and The Shawshank Redemption as humanist films because they speak about hope. The website Spiked! defends humanism, and by that means that Spiked! champions agency, the new term for free will and emancipation, and free speech, the sphere of conscience.

The album Humanist has just been released by a songwriter who says he is not religious but does "recognise the need for deities. Humanism is often associated with real feelings rather than formality: its what likeable in Hockney; its how Vox praises the new film Emma.

Not speaking this lingo means tacitly neglecting any defence of conscience, free will, and spirituality, made in terms that todays society can accept: the very concepts at the heart of Gaudium et spes. The very things in papers and websites which Christians should be latching onto as seeds of the Gospel are not being shared or said by them at all. Around us is a renewed culture, and Christians need to appropriate it.

In his book True Humanism (1936), Jacques Maritain argued that philosophers taking the human being as their starting point did not need to reduce reality to the human, or reduce what is human to the simply material.

Maritains thought was that when Christine de Pizan and Pico della Mirandola were flourishing, humanism was Christian humanism, but that by 1936, humanism became short for secular humanism.

If the Church engages at all, it opposes secular humanism with its Christian humanism as though 1936 were the present day. But often, in 2020, humanists recognise the need for the spiritual. The way people use humanism as a term of approval shows that New Atheism (Dawkins neo-Darwinism and so forth) is not now the problem.

Humanism now is not anti-Christian in tone. This is actually worse for the Church. The urgent problem is the currency of strong alternative language for good that the Church cannot hear and will not speak.

Nietzsche is somewhere in this story, too, Maritain was right about that; with the Nietzschean idea that Christianity encourages weakness. Every human sin confirms that bias. Marxism features too, because the Soviet version of the texts was published for a generation before Marx-before-Engels (what Maritain calls the young Marx) was rediscovered. Before long it looked like two forms of un-freedom: religion and politics, church and state.

When students grow up, it is more the questions that have been closed down for them that come to define their choices, than the skills which they are meant to have acquired. There is great danger now that atheists are defending agency, free expression and the human spirit, while the Church comes to be associated with cruelty, cover-up and grief.

Look no further than Philip Pullmans celebrity to see that the tables have been turned. Atheists who reject an idea of God that was never worthy of acceptance will defend humanity, they will be the humanists; and Catholics will fail to put across their trust in the God-made-man.

The century now underway is not unlike the fourth century in this respect. Then as well there was a more sympathetic hearing for Christians who presented Christ as divine but human than for Christians who emphasised divinity at the expense of humanity. The successful proselytisers were the Arians.

The fallacies promulgated in schools should be lanced. Before modern science, no one was trying (and failing) to do science. Before natural science existed, people engaged with the same real world, just in different terms. Their sacramental idea of nature, with God as the first, final and primary cause, can co-exist with our success in mastering secondary causes.

What is more important? When you meet someone whom Karl Rahner considers an anonymous Christian, who considers himself not religious; what matters first? To win an argument which to him is theoretical? To speak in your own institutions language? Or to relate to him in what Escriva calls the one same language of the heart? If you thought the natural virtues can be built on by the theological ones, why would you start with theology, bowdlerising theology in the process?

Why would the Church start with that bureaucratic aridity the Pope has rejected when we could achieve dialogue with the mercy Francis commends?

At a time when public discourse is being cut up into echo chambers and silos, when people seek actively to confirm their bias, the Church is another silo: one which does not communicate what it means and seems to say the opposite. So we need to start with the word that means something to others.

The integral humanism Maritain advocated means seeing the transcendent and the individual together, but it is with individuals that all individuals must begin. Catholics and the Catholic clergy should stand up for humanism, and use exactly that word.

Only by using an intelligible language can the Church gain a hearing for its claim to have a longer and deeper view. The Church has "baptised" natural theology before. Christ is the true human being. Humanism is the beginning of a faith that works.

Andrew Macdonald Powney works in publishing but used to teach RS in schools.

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Have atheists become defenders of the good? - The Tablet

Atheists and Christians: Are Atheists Deficient In Love? – Patheos

By guest writer William M. Shea, PhD

Beloved, if God so loved us,we also must love one another.No one has ever seen God.Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,and his love is brought to perfection in us.We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. (1 John 4:11-16)

************************************Why would Christians think that God does not love atheists? After all, Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

Do Christians think that atheists love is any less, or any more exclusive, than Christians love?

Ive met and known many atheists in my teaching career, and I havent found in them any more deficiency of love for others than I have found in Christians. In many individuals and groups I do detect there is a marked deficiencyNazis for example and anti-Semites. I have two adult sons, one of whom is, like his parents, a practicing Christian and the other not. I must say, after years of reflection, I conclude that there is love for one another in both, and even, a surfeit of faith as I conceive it.

Even at the risk of screwing up our understandings of God-talk, a few questions about the endless arguments between atheists and theists are still in order. Are there any new arguments or we voicing the same old ones? I dont think there is much new going on. Are the arguments properly counter-posed or are they passing one another in the night? I think they are often but not always passing in the night. Does incomprehension reign on both sides of the argument? I think so. What are theyreallyfighting about anyway? Not easy to say!

When I run up against a wall of incomprehension, criticism and rejection of the way of life of my fellow Christians, I can react in three ways (and I do!): strenuous and defensive opposition, conversion to the other side of the wall, or deepening my understanding the wall and what is on the other side. The first makes me a warrior in a fruitless war (my Irish Catholic psyche likes this!). The second would make me an atheist. The third, a reflection on atheism and my differences with it would at least put me on the path laid out so vigorously by the last four popes, the path Pope Francis calls the path of understanding and encounter. I hope to stay with the third. After all, Ive been at it for the past fifty years!

An Atheist In Possibility

So here is a starting point in my reflection: the recognition that I am an atheist in possibility (in actuality sometimes for a moment or two), and I have been since the age of ten when my first serious questions about the God of my ancestors and my church community, the Jewish and Christian God, occurred. The occasion was viewing of the Movietone film scenes of the Holocaust and the concurrent personal experience of an agonizing physical injury (1945). I have not and did not become an atheist in actuality except for those few moments in which I felt the dark side. I never left my community of faith and belief, but my faith, hope and belief have passed through the fires of doubt and wonder. How could there be such pain, violence and death if God is living and loving? How could St. James have penned the words above if he lived in the same world I do?

On and off, for long periods of time, for months and once even for two years, I feared there was no one on the other end of my spiritual telephone, for no one was getting back to me, no one answered my questions. I might even go so far as to say that most Christians know exactly what I am talking about, that is, the dark side. Even the saints give evidence of what they called periods of dryness when there is silence from other end of the line. Even saints knew about pain and evil and faced death everyday.

Two Different Atheisms

Allow me to make two distinctions. Among other things in my years of research I found two quite different strands of atheism. One strand clearly sees the meaning and even the value of religion while considering it imaginary. The other strand takes religion to be an aberration of mind and spirit, a threat to the advancement and freedom of humanity, a passing fancy, the detritus of history. Following this second line of thought the Parliament of Iceland recently, and with but one negative vote, declared that religion is a mental illness. What a unique moment in the history of parliaments that was!

Time and space seem to be the arena of our knowing and even of being. If so , either we cannot know IT (agnosticism) or IT cannot be (atheism). IT must be there or here or IT isnt simply isnt! The atheist says IT isnt and the theist says IT isnt here or there yet IT is. According to the history of the empirical method we have inherited in the West east least since David Hume (d. 1776) what is not within the horizon of our sense experience and cannot be measured in any way, cannot be known: What real musthere or there, an object, a thing and the relations between things that can be sensed or measured.

As Frederick Woodbridge put it broadly and bluntly: If you want to know if the stone is real, kick it. If you cant kick it, better silence or denial. Should this simplification be valid there is no basis, no evidence, for concluding that IT exists. But theists (and other religionists) insist there is in fact a real even though IT is not kickable. To sharpen up the difference, may I suggest that one side is saying God is nothing and unreal, while the other side is saying God is real but No-thing? The second is where I stand: God real but not a thing. But if God is real yet unkickable how do I know that God is real? One must press hard on that question if philosophical atheism is to be encountered. Lets be frank: there are a lot of very intelligent people who think God is nothing.

A second distinction may help. God isknownas the supposition to any and every experience and knowing, to any and every thing, implicitly at first but at last brought to the linguistic surface by common sense (religions) and then clarified by explication in an adequate metaphysics. But the Incarnation and Resurrection (the Christian gospel) arebelieved.This distinction between knowing and believing is crucial to any encounter between atheism and theism. We shouldnt collapse believing into knowing, and Christians easily do so. But we Christians say: Ibelievein God, the Father almighty The first Vatican Council (1869) taught that we can know that God exists, but it didnt teach that weknowGod to be a trinity ofpersonaein onenatura.Such matters intrinsic to Christian faith arebelieved,notknown.

It may help to keep these distinctions in mind as the next post addresses Atheism and Religions.

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Atheists and Christians: Are Atheists Deficient In Love? - Patheos

Anchored faith: Brothers death leads to atheism, then ministry for Hall of Fame golfer – Current in Carmel

As a 5-year-old, Nancy Fitzgeralds faith in God was not just shaken but destroyed.

While at the familys Michigan lake house, she found her 2-year-old brother Stephen in the lake and tried to save him.

The babysitter said it was my fault he died and I killed him, Fitzgerald said. As an adult, I understand that now it was a reaction of horror. But as a 5-year-old recipient, I just felt guilt and shame. At that time, I asked God to fix him. But my dad finally told me (the paramedics) werent able to save him and Stephen died and was in heaven. I said, Who would want to be with a God who killed him? That was with me for 27 years. I became a cynic.

Nancy Fitzgerald shows her form in the U.S. Senior Womens Amateur. (Submitted photo)

My reaction to a God that would allow this to happen was an extreme unhealthy fear. I was terrified he was going to kill me.

Fast-forward to age 32 and Fitzgerald, who considered herself an atheist, said she felt something missing in life despite a successful college golfing career at Indiana University, earning two masters degrees from IU and a successful amateur golfing career.

I was winning golf tournaments all over the world, but there was a missing link, she said. I figured it had something to do with God. I was staying with Christians during a golf tournament and began reading Scriptures.

That led to extensive research. She peppered Christians with questions like, How do you know the Bible is true?

I researched it to the point that I could no longer disbelieve, Fitzgerald said. The evidence is overwhelming.

As a result, she wanted to share that faith, eventually leading the longtime Carmel resident to found the Carmel-based ministry Anchorsaway. Sessions are held on Tuesday evenings from mid-January through April. The sessions, which are open, is primarily designed high school juniors and seniors.

Fitzgerald started on that path when her oldest son was a senior in high school in 1989. She asked him what he was going to do when he encountered skeptics or atheists in college.

I think Christians need to be slow to speak and quick to ask peoples stories as to why they didnt believe, she said. Instead of preaching, sometimes we need to be good listeners.

Fitzgerald led Bible study sessions in her home, where she began to answer questions about Christianity.

Nancy Fitzgerald with the late Chuck Colson.

They were fascinated with it, she said of the students. They called themselves Christians because they went to church, but it wasnt until we really got into it that they got excited about their faith and how to love others that think differently. We started with a group of six kids, and in a few years we had 150 kids in our great room at home.

Fitzgerald studied for a year with the Colson Fellows Program, founded by the late-Chuck Colson. A former special counsel to President Richard Nixon who went to prison for several months for obstruction of justice during the Watergate scandal, Colson became an evangelical Christian and founded a prison ministry.

Chuck Colson said, You are going to have to give up your golf to do this, Fitzgerald said. I willingly backed off of golf and jumped full time into ministry because of the importance of what we teach of a life with Christ versus a life of golf.

Fitzgerald, the 1997 U.S. Senior Womens Amateur Champion and a 1990 Indiana Golf Hall of Famer, decided she could play fewer tournaments.

I want to be remembered for making a little difference in a life rather than winning golf tournaments, she said.

Fitzgerald said that is not to diminish what she describes as the greatest game ever and one that has provided a wealth of friends and experiences.

But my heart is with kids, she said.

Fitzgerald has made it her mission to teach students how to use the ministry.

Its how to develop a real faith in Christ that not only allows us to answer our questions, (but) to give us purpose and hope in a mixed-up world, and to realize weve all messed up but God loves us anyway, she said. If you believe in Christ and he died and rose again, were forgiven and he gives us new chances. We need to take advantage of it. Rather than looking in the past with regret, were looking in the future with hope.

Fitzgerald and her husband, Ed, a retired heart surgeon, have four children and 10 grandchildren, who all live in Denver.

While at Greenfield-Central High School, Katie Peters had been taught Nancy Fitzgeralds curriculum on understanding the Christian faith.

Now, she has returned for a refresher course on the Anchorsaway Worldwide Curriculum to share with others.

Several parents hosted it in their homes and opened it to high school juniors and seniors in the area, Peters said. The people who did it were trained by Nancy.

Peters, 25, is now a Greenfield-Central dietician.

I want to do what folks did for me and bring it to this area, Peters said. Even though I went to a private Christian university (Samford University), the material I learned (from Anchorsaway) made me confident in what I believed. It gave me a solid foundation.

Peters said the curriculum provides evidence and reasoning for Christian beliefs.

Its defending your faith but also tackling real issues people face every single day, she said.

For more, visit anchorsaway.org.

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Anchored faith: Brothers death leads to atheism, then ministry for Hall of Fame golfer - Current in Carmel