Can Bacteria Help Us Understand Religion? Part 1: The Brain-Changing Power of Religious Belief

by Valerie Tarico

To progress toward a better future, humanity desperately needs a better understanding of religion. Maybe microbes can help.

Religion is one of the most powerful forces in human society. Before the rise of America’s Christian Right and before Islamists turned planes into bombs and started beheading people on social media, many Americans thought of religion as a relatively benign institution or, at worst, one that was toothless and doddering. Sure, religion may once have had the power to burn libraries and infidels or rouse armies of crusaders, but that all seemed like distant history. In modern popular vernacular, that’s not very Christian of you simply meant not very nice, and Islam was said to mean peace rather than its other root: submission.

But as a psychologist and former fundamentalist, I have always had a healthy regard for the power of religious belief.

During my years in Evangelical Christianity, I heard the story of Nicky Cruz, a New York gang member whose life had been transformed by Jesus; the story of Chicago’s Union Gospel Mission that turned alcoholic bums into sober Christians; the story of missionary Elizabeth Elliot who dedicated her life to saving the souls of Amazonian headhunters after they killed her husband.

After I left Christianity... Read the rest of the essay HERE

The bewilderment of Islam as an ideology is unfortunately shielding Islam from critique

by Abdulrahman Aliyu

Islam, like any other ideology is a set of thinking, that translates into action. That’s why it is essential to scrutinize, challenge, and criticize it for its own betterment. “Islam” as the name of a religion is a call for total and wholehearted submission to the will of Allah. So the question is, what is the will of Allah ?

Simple! It’s the need to align humanity into the most virtuous way of living in the strictest terms of modesty from the 7th century’s understanding of the world by an uneducated, barbaric, and ancient culture.

A culture where gays are frowned at in the most barbaric terms possible, women are made inferior and belittled so that they are considered half a man in inheritance or as a witness of a court case, and above all, reasoning outside the box of religion is considered as apostasy and attracts the death penalty. And many more horrors.

Read the rest of the essay HERE

Interview with an ex-Muslim Apostate & Closeted Atheist, in northern Nigeria

by Hank Pellissier

Yesterday I got involved in a conversation on the Facebook page Nigeria Atheists - it has over 3,500 members!  I thought almost all of them were living in the UK or the USA, but the fellow I was chatting with was decidedly not - he's in the very-unsafe-for-atheists city of Kano, in northern Nigeria. Here's our conversation below:

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Hello Hank

Hank Pellissier: I direct humanist organizations in the USA. I am interested in your ideas on Islam, I could publish them online.

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Am honored..... I will be very delighted

Hank Pellissier: Is this your real name? 

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes it's my real name.... 

Hank Pellissier: I live in San Francisco. Are you an ex-Muslim - living in Lagos?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Am living in Kaduna, not Lagos. 

Hank Pellissier: Kaduna seems like a dangerous place to be anti-Muslim - Is it safe for you to write about this topic?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: It's not without risk writing about Islam. But we just have do it, seeing how destructing it is to humanity. It's alright. How did u learn about me ?

Hank Pellissier:  Atheist Nigeria Facebook page?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes. I am a closeted atheist.

Read the rest of the interview HERE