Archive for December, 2014


prisons_n

93% of convicted American child molesters identify themselves as Christian.

74% of American inmates identify themselves as Catholic/Protestant. 0.2% of American inmates identify themselves as Atheist.

If Atheists have no morals why doesn’t the prison population reflect that?

morality_n

Morality without god is living and looking at life, without the mind-clouded fog of supersttion.


Fourth New York Jewish baby this year treated for herpes after controversial Orthodox circumcision method

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Circumcision: A fourth baby (not pictured) has contracted herpes in New York this year following a controversial circumcision called metzizah b'peh

  • The baby was born in November and showed signs of herpes infection on the penis shortly after being circumcised but has since recovered
  • The method of circumcision in question ends with the man performing the ceremony, a mohel, sucking blood from the baby’s foreskin
  • This is the 17th recorded case of herpes in babies from a circumcision since 2000

A fourth baby has contracted herpes in New York this year following a controversial circumcision called metzizah b’peh, a ritual in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in which the baby’s genitals come in contact with the mouth of the man performing the service.

According to the NYC Department of Health, the baby was born in November and showed signs of herpes infection on the penis shortly after being circumcised.

The method of circumcision in question ends with the man who performs the ceremony, called a mohel, sucking blood from the baby’s foreskin to stop the bleeding.

Circumcision: A fourth baby (not pictured) has contracted herpes in New York this year following a controversial circumcision called metzizah b'peh

Circumcision: A fourth baby (not pictured) has contracted herpes in New York this year following a controversial circumcision called metzizah b’peh

Gothamist reports that unlike other infants who have died from herpes infection, this baby has recovered and was released from the hospital today.

This is the 17th recorded case of herpes in New York babies from a circumcision since 2000. Two of those infants died while two others suffered significant brain damage.

Two babies were infected in New York just last summer.

New York has tried to regulate the practice by requiring mohels to have a signed consent form from parents prior to performing the ritual back in 2012.

Many mohels have ignored the new regulation and some Orthodox groups argued that the new law was an infringement on their first amendment rights.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also promised to regulate ‘metzitzah b’peh.’

‘I would start over,’ he said during a Democratic debate last year.

‘Change the policy to find a way to protect all the children but also respect religious tradition in an appropriate manner and come in Day 1 to City Hall with a new policy that’s fair.’

Since entering office De Blasio has yet to come up with a new policy.

According to The New York Daily News  some ultra-Orthodox Jews took de Blasio’s statement as a sign that the regulation was an unnecessary intrusion and so they chose to ignore it.

Changing policy: Many mohels (file photo) have ignored the new regulation and some Orthodox groups argued that the new law was an infringement on their first amendment rights


Atheists ‘have higher IQs’: Their intelligence ‘makes them more likely to dismiss religion as irrational and unscientific’
  • Research found those with higher IQs more likely to dismiss religion
  • Another drawback to being religious, or at least Christian is losing out on top jobs

Atheists tend to be more intelligent than religious people, according to a US study.

Researchers found that those with high IQs had greater self-control and were able to do more for themselves – so did not need the benefits that religion provides.

They also have better self esteem and built more supportive relationships, the study authors said.

New evidence: A study has concluded that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers

New evidence: A study has concluded that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers

The conclusions were the result of a review of 63 scientific studies about religion and intelligence dating between 1928 and last year.

In 53 of these there was a ‘reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity’.

In just 10 was that relationship positive.

Even among children, the more intelligent a child was the more probable it was that they would shun the church.

In old age the same trend persisted as well, the research showed.

The University of Rochester psychologists behind the study defined religion as involvement in some or all parts of a belief.

They defined intelligence as the ‘ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience’.

In their conclusions, they said: ‘Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one central theme – the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who ‘know better’.

‘Intelligent people typically spend more time in school – a form of self-regulation that may yield long-term benefits.

‘More intelligent people getting higher level jobs and better employment and higher salary may lead to higher self-esteem, and encourage personal control beliefs.’

Study co-author Jordan Silberman, a graduate student of neuroeconomics at the University of Rochester, said: ‘Intelligence may lead to greater self-control ability, self-esteem, perceived control over life events, and supportive relationships, obviating some of the benefits that religion sometimes provides.’

Detailed: The research analysed 63 surveys comparing intelligence levels and religious beliefs between 1928 and 2012

Detailed: The research analysed 63 surveys comparing intelligence levels and religious beliefs between 1928 and 2012

Research from the UK last week showed another drawback to being religious, or at least Christian – you lose out in the race for top jobs.

Official figures show nearly one in four people who have no religious belief now live in homes headed by someone with a senior executive job or a place in one of the professions.

But well under a fifth of Christians are employed in the best-paid and most influential jobs or are married to someone who is, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The last census, carried out in March 2011, showed a fall in the number of people that call themselves Christian in the UK.

Christian numbers in England and Wales, including children, fell by 4.1 million in a decade to 33.2 million.

However there was a 45 per cent rise over the same 10 years in numbers who say they have no religion, to 14.1 million.


Highly religious people are less motivated by compassion than are non-believers

“Love thy neighbor” is preached from many a pulpit. But new research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that the highly religious are less motivated by compassion when helping a stranger than are atheists, agnostics and less religious people.


Study finds highly religious people are less motivated by compassion to show generosity than are non-believers

In three experiments, social scientists found that compassion consistently drove less religious people to be more generous. For highly religious people, however, compassion was largely unrelated to how generous they were, according to the findings which are published in the most recent online issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The results challenge a widespread assumption that acts of generosity and charity are largely driven by feelings of empathy and compassion, researchers said. In the study, the link between compassion and generosity was found to be stronger for those who identified as being non-religious or less religious.

“Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not,” said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a co-author of the study. “The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns.”

Compassion is defined in the study as an emotion felt when people see the suffering of others which then motivates them to help, often at a personal risk or cost.

While the study examined the link between religion, compassion and generosity, it did not directly examine the reasons for why highly religious people are less compelled by compassion to help others. However, researchers hypothesize that deeply religious people may be more strongly guided by a sense of moral obligation than their more non-religious counterparts.

“We hypothesized that religion would change how compassion impacts generous behavior,” said study lead author Laura Saslow, who conducted the research as a doctoral student at UC Berkeley.

Saslow, who is now a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Francisco, said she was inspired to examine this question after an altruistic, nonreligious friend lamented that he had only donated to earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti after watching an emotionally stirring video of a woman being saved from the rubble, not because of a logical understanding that help was needed.

“I was interested to find that this experience – an atheist being strongly influenced by his emotions to show generosity to strangers – was replicated in three large, systematic studies,” Saslow said.

In the first experiment, researchers analyzed data from a 2004 national survey of more than 1,300 American adults. Those who agreed with such statements as “When I see someone being taken advantage of, I feel kind of protective towards them” were also more inclined to show generosity in random acts of kindness, such as loaning out belongings and offering a seat on a crowded bus or train, researchers found.

When they looked into how much compassion motivated participants to be charitable in such ways as giving money or food to a homeless person, non-believers and those who rated low in religiosity came out ahead: “These findings indicate that although compassion is associated with pro-sociality among both less religious and more religious individuals, this relationship is particularly robust for less religious individuals,” the study found.

In the second experiment, 101 American adults watched one of two brief videos, a neutral video or a heartrending one, which showed portraits of children afflicted by poverty. Next, they were each given 10 “lab dollars” and directed to give any amount of that money to a stranger. The least religious participants appeared to be motivated by the emotionally charged video to give more of their money to a stranger.

“The compassion-inducing video had a big effect on their generosity,” Willer said. “But it did not significantly change the generosity of more religious participants.”

In the final experiment, more than 200 college students were asked to report how compassionate they felt at that moment. They then played “economic trust games” in which they were given money to share – or not – with a stranger. In one round, they were told that another person playing the game had given a portion of their money to them, and that they were free to reward them by giving back some of the money, which had since doubled in amount.

Those who scored low on the religiosity scale, and high on momentary compassion, were more inclined to share their winnings with strangers than other participants in the study.

“Overall, this research suggests that although less religious people tend to be less trusted in the U.S., when feeling compassionate, they may actually be more inclined to help their fellow citizens than more religious people,” Willer said.

In addition to Saslow and Willer, other co-authors of the study are UC Berkeley psychologists Dacher Keltner, Matthew Feinberg and Paul Piff; Katharine Clark at the University of Colorado, Boulder; and Sarina Saturn at Oregon State University.

The study was funded by grants from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley’s Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging, and the Metanexus Institute.


Bill Nye: Creationism Is ‘Raising A Generation Of Young People Who Can’t Think’

The biggest danger creationism plays, according to Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” is that it is raising a generation of children who “can’t think” and who “will not be able to participate in the future in same way” as those who are taught evolution.

Speaking on MidPoint, Nye said he blames an older generation of evangelicals “who have very strong conservative views” and who are “reluctant to let kids learn about evolution.” Their presence on school boards leads to debates over curriculum, Nye argued, which further inhibits schools’ ability to teach facts.

“Religion is one thing. People get tremendous comfort and community with their religions,” Nye said. “But whatever you believe, whatever deity or higher power you might believe in, the Earth is not 6,000 years old.”

Nye, who has a new book out titled “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation,” recently participated in a debate with creationist Ken Ham, which some argued was a moment of embarrassment for the science community.

University of Chicago evolution professor Jerry A. Coyne called the debate “pointless and counterproductive.” The Guardian’s Pete Etchells wrote:

Scientific literacy is crucial for society to function effectively, which means that we can’t afford to be messing around with the way that it’s taught in the classroom or wasting our time with fruitless public debates.

Nye stood by the debate, however, saying he “stepped into the lion’s den” in order to spread awareness about the academic opportunities children are denied by being creationism.

“They will not have this fundamental idea that you can question things, that you can think critically, that you can use skeptical thought to learn about nature,” Nye told MidPoint. “These children have to suppress everything that they can see in nature to try to get a world view that’s compatible with the adults in who they trust and rely on for sustenance.”

H/T RawStory


Bruce Jessen Built CIA Interrogation Program; Quit Role As Mormon Bishop
SPOKANE WASHINGTON
SPOKANE, Wa. – One of the chief architects of the CIA’s harsh interrogation program said on Thursday he had to quit as leader of his Mormon church in 2012 amid controversy about his role in fighting terrorism.

No senior policymakers or CIA officials have been charged for the maltreatment of suspects, but at least for former Air Force psychologist Bruce Jessen there has been a repercussion at a local level for his part in the so-called “war on terror.”

Jessen resigned as bishop of a Mormon congregation in Spokane, Washington after civil liberties and human rights activists criticized his professional past in the local newspaper.

“I just felt it would be unfair for me to bring that controversy to a lot of other people, so I decided to step down,” Jessen told Reuters outside his home south of Spokane.

The CIA paid $80 million to a company run by Jessen and another former Air Force psychologist, James Mitchell, according to a U.S. Senate report released this week. The report said the pair recommended waterboarding, slaps to the face and mock burial for prisoners suspected of being terrorists.

The pair are referred to by pseudonyms in the report but intelligence sources have identified them by name. Mitchell said earlier this week the report was a “bunch of hooey.” Jessen said a nondisclosure agreement prevented him from commenting.

“It’s a difficult position to be in,” he said. “You want to set the record straight.” He accused the media of publishing “distortions” about CIA interrogation methods.

Jessen, 65, had only spent a week in the role as head of his 300-member Spokane congregation when he stepped down in October, 2012.

“This was due to concerns expressed about his past work related to interrogation techniques,” said Eric Hawkins, a national spokesman in Salt Lake City for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon faith is formally known.

The position of bishop is unpaid and part-time but well-respected in the Mormon world.

“Local leaders met with Jessen and together determined that it would be difficult for him to serve as an effective leader in that position,” Hawkins said.

A bishop normally serves three to six years, he added. Jessen remains a member of the same congregation.

The American Psychological Association – to which Jessen and Mitchell do not belong and are thus not subject to discipline – has called for the pair to be held accountable. But U.S. officials say there will be no criminal charges. (Reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington DC and Jacob Jones in Spokane. Writing by Alistair Bell, editing by Ross Colvin)


Why Were So Many Beloved Christmas Songs Written By Jewish Musicians?

IRVING BERLIN
(RNS) Christians don’t seem to mind that so many beloved Christmas songs were written by Jews, and Jews tend to reel off the list with pride.

White Christmas. Let It Snow. Santa Baby. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. Silver Bells. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Those not mentioned here could fill an album.

But why didn’t the Jews write any similarly iconic songs for their holiday that falls around Christmastime: Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights?

“I Have a Little Dreidl”? Great song … if you’re 4.

There are reasons that Jews are good at Christmas songs and why so many of these songs became so popular. And there are reasons why Jews didn’t write similarly catchy tunes for Hanukkah — or any other Jewish holiday.

But first, a little music history.

In the first half of the 20th century, Jews flocked to the music industry. It was one business where they didn’t face overwhelming anti-Semitism, said Michael Feinstein, the Emmy Award-winning interpreter of American musical standards.

“White Christmas,” written by Jewish lyricist Irving Berlin, topped the charts in 1942 and launched popular Christmas music, encouraging many others — Jews and non-Jews — to write more odes to the holiday.

And although celebrating the birth of Christ was not something these Jewish songwriters would want to do, they could feel comfortable composing more secular Christmas singles.

“The Christmas songs that are popular are not about Jesus, but they’re about sleigh bells and Santa and the trappings of Christmas,” Feinstein said. “They’re not religious songs.”

In their music and lyrics, Jews captured Christmas not only as a wonderful, wintry time for family gatherings, but also as an American holiday. What they drew on, said Rabbi Kenneth Kanter, an expert on Jews and popular culture at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, was their background as the children of European-born Jews, or as immigrants themselves, in the case of Russian-born Berlin and others.

Jewish songwriters’ own successful assimilation and gratitude to America pervades their midcentury Christmas and other songs, and appealed to a country that wanted to feel brave and united as it fought World War II.

“These songs made Christmas a kind of national celebration, almost a patriotic celebration,” Kanter said.

The irreligious nature of these Christmas songs may not sit well with pious Christians, said Feinstein, who is Jewish and who cut “A Michael Feinstein Christmas,” among many other albums. But they are now part of the fabric of our larger culture, he said, and “any singer who is a singer of the American songbook will sing Christmas songs,” said Feinstein. “We all sing them.”

Feinstein is in good Jewish company. Barbra Streisand made “A Christmas Album.” Neil Diamond cut not only “A Christmas Album,” but also “A Christmas Album, Volume II,” and then a “Cherry, Cherry Christmas.” This year, Idina Menzel, who started out singing at bar mitzvahs and is best-known as the strong, melodic voice in the hit movie “Frozen,” just came out with the very Christmas-y “Holiday Wishes.” This list is far from exhaustive.

And how about Hanukkah songs?

First, singers want an audience, and with Jews making up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, and Christians nearly 80 percent, the natural market for Hanukkah tunes is relatively tiny. Though the story of Hanukkah is about religious freedom, a theme Americans can relate to, few know the tale of the ancient Maccabees — how they threw off their Hellenistic oppressors, and the drop of oil which miraculously lit their lamp for eight days.

Feinstein, who was raised in a Conservative synagogue in Columbus, Ohio, said many people have tried to get him to lend his voice to a Hanukkah song, but he’s just not that interested.

“They usually are in a minor key,” he said. “And there isn’t as much imagery that one can put into a Hanukkah song compared to Christmas.”

There are still plenty of tuneful and moving Hanukkah songs, some of them in major keys — the rousing “Al Hanisim,” for example. But many are written in languages other than English — Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino — and aren’t going to get much airplay in the U.S.

But a growing body of Hanukkah music aims to break through the subdued and somber stereotype.

In 1982, for example, the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary first performed “Light One Candle,” a social action song that invokes the Maccabees’ struggle.

The Jewish reggae star Matisyahu came out with “Miracle” in 2011. And the Maccabeats, an a capella group based at Yeshiva University, remade the pop song “Dynamite” into a 2010 Hanukkah hit called “Candlelight.”

And then there’s Kenny Ellis, the cantor at Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita, Calif., who is on a mission to convince Jews and non-Jews alike that Hanukkah songs can be a zippy part of the national songbook. Each Hanukkah, Ellis sings from his 2005 album, “Hanukkah Swings,” a big-band take on some of the most well-known Hanukkah songs, starting with “Swingin’ Dreidel.”

To Ellis’ delight, Feinstein once sang “Swingin’ Dreidel” in his New York nightclub. It wouldn’t hurt if more Jewish singers tried a Hanukkah song or two, Ellis said. Maybe a whole album.

“I love all the Jewish performers that do Christmas albums,” Ellis said. “But what’s the big deal about doing a Hanukkah album? Does anyone think that if Barbra Streisand did a Hanukkah album, that her career would be finished?”