Women and exercise in Saudi Arabia: a bad, bad thing

Adding to the seemingly endless list of things the Saudi Arabian government deems unsuitable for women is exercise. Yes, exercise. It’s not enough that their fundamentalist brand of religious stupidity bans women from a wide range of activities (including freedom of dress, driving, and the ability to leave the house without permission from a close male relative) – no, not enough. Now, clamping down on access to gyms and exercise facilities, the SA government has apparently decided that women are living too long and too healthily.

And by Allah, they can’t have that!

Unsurprisingly, gyms and sports clubs for men are being left alone. Those for women, however, are about to be closed if they are not attached to a medical centre.  This means, of course, that the majority of centres are likely to be removed. Future sports centres will be denied licenses. No doubt the prospect of obesity and heart disease in their spouses has Saudi officials rubbing their hands in glee.

Story here.

NYT: Nontheism Rising

The New York Times has published one of those feel-good stories today. At least, it makes me feel good: More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops.

More than ever, America’s atheists are linking up and speaking out — even here in South Carolina, home to Bob Jones University, blue laws and a legislature that last year unanimously approved a Christian license plate embossed with a cross, a stained glass window and the words “I Believe” (a move blocked by a judge and now headed for trial).

They are connecting on the Internet, holding meet-ups in bars, advertising on billboards and buses, volunteering at food pantries and picking up roadside trash, earning atheist groups recognition on adopt-a-highway signs.

Of course, those of us within the community have seen this sort of growth for some time now. It is nice to see a mainstream media source like the Times acknowledging it, though.

The Classics Never Die

I’m not sure what prompted a Chicago-area reader to fire off this retread of the dusty old cosmological argument earlier this week, but in a weird way it’s good to see the classics still out there. Sometimes, you just can’t keep a bad argument down, I guess.

BBC Invites Humanists to the Table

Here’s a welcome bit of news: The BBC will be including a Humanist in their newly formed Standing Conference on Religion and Belief. This is apparently the result of a 2003 change in the codes policing the BBC as a government entity. It’s nice to see that, six years later, they’re finally doing what should have been done even BEFORE the code were in place.  Better late than never.

Fear not, though–the move is already meeting with Christian criticism:

“This is like asking [known evironmentalist critic] Jeremy Clarkson to sit on a committee responsible for making programmes about the environment.”

Community Profile: freemonkey

How did you find out about online freethought communities, and what’s your favourite thing about them?

~ from Google and from members of one group or another. I don’t have the time to hang out at them much, but I have been reading a handful of atheist/freethought blogs when I can lately. My favorite things about them are the freethinkers! My favorite things about freethinkers are their wit, intelligence, sense of irony. I also like the feeling of connection to these people.

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Global Warming Beliefs by Religion – by lpetrich

This subject straddles science, politics, and religion, so it can be difficult to classify.

Jesse Galef, a guest contributor to Hemant Mehta’s blog Friendly Atheist, has posted How Does Religion Contribute to Views on Global Warming? drawing from this recent Pew Forum survey.

From the graph:

Who Yes-HA Yes-NP Yes-DK No ???
Total US population 47 18 6 21 8
Unaffiliated 58 11 6 18 7
White mainline Protestants 48 19 6 19 8
White non-Hispanic Catholics 44 20 6 22 8
Black Protestants 39 36 5 15 5
White evangelical Protestants 34 17 7 31 11

The abbreviations of the positions:

Yes-HA Yes, because of human activity
Yes-NP Yes, because of natural patterns
Yes-DK Yes, but don’t know cause
No No
??? Mixed evidence / Some evidence / Don’t

The connection is likely in what other beliefs they are likely to have alongside their religious beliefs.

White evangelicals tend to be Religious Right, and global warming not happening is a big part of right-wing Political Correctness. Right-wingers regularly make “Algore” into some great villain, and they insinute that the idea was invented by left-wing enemies of the American people who want to deprive us of our precious SUV’s and reduce us to a Third-World standard of living.

As to black Protestants, they tend to be poor, and they may thus find it difficult to believe that we are powerful enough to do something that can significantly warm our planet.

It’s interesting that the Unaffiliated are the most likely to believe that human activities cause global warming. Since education and the more fundie forms of religion have a clear negative correlation, that may be a result of their greater education.

There is a nonreligious demographic that is likely to be skeptical about global warming: right-libertarians. But from that poll’s results, there are not enough of them to make much of a difference.

Kiwis becoming less religious

A recent study by Massey University has shown a sharp rise in the number of New Zealanders without religious affiliation. 40% of Kiwis choose not to be religious, up from 29% when a similar study was performed 17 years ago.

The study also showed that just over half (53%) of those surveyed said that they believed in God, although half of those had doubts. Just over a third of the respondents claimed to be religious.

“The study shows that God is not dead, but religion may be dying,” says Professor Grendall, who headed the project. With no change in those who believe in a “higher power” rather than a specific god (at 20%), Grendall believes that “…perhaps the apparent decline in religiosity reflects a decline in traditional religious loyalties – rather than a decline in spirituality as such.”

This tracks with the most recent census results, with 29.6% claiming no religion in the 2001 census – a figure that rose to 34.7% just five years later in the 2006 census. This rapid rise in the numbers of non-religious is likely to be age-related. Only 11.8% of those over 65 recorded no religion in 2006, while 43% of children (aged 0-14) claimed the same status.

Massey news item here.

Can your country beat these statistics? Comment below…