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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 6, 2011 / 4 Sivan, 5771

Atheist confab in Ireland comes as Europe confronts religion in public life

By Jason Walsh





The first World Atheist Convention this weekend in Dublin comes at a time when Islam, the pope, and blasphemy are front and center in Europe


JewishWorldReview.com |

cUBLIN— (TCSM) This weekend, about 350 conventioneers descended on Dublin to discuss matters of faith and its place in public life. It's not a meeting of the Catholic Church hierarchy, but the first World Atheist Convention.

Organizers claim they aren't trying to make a statement by selecting Ireland, often seen as one of Europe's most religious nations, but the get-together of nonbelievers does come in a country where religiosity has been in steady decline.

In fact, faith seems to be on many European minds of late and questions of religion in public life have reentered political discourse here — from the French "burqa ban" to Ireland's antiblasphemy law to frequent complaints from Pope Benedict XVI about perceived moral relativism. Long considered a private matter, some say public questions of faith are even threatening Europe's traditionally secular politics.

"Broadly speaking, religion is back on the agenda in a way people didn't think it would be 10 or 15 years ago," says Titus Hjelm, a sociologist of religion at University College London.

Islam in particular has been singled out as a threat to European life — by left and right alike. Last year, German banker and socialist politician Theo Sarrazin made waves with the publication of his book, "Germany Abolishes Itself," in which he argues the immigrant Muslim population would "overwhelm" the country.


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The famously liberal Netherlands has also seen the rise of anti-Muslim political sentiment with Islam perceived as a threat to the Dutch way of life. Most recently, right-wing anti-immigrant sentiment has grown at the polls inFinland and Hungary.

Mr. Hjelm, himself Finnish, sounds a cautionary note, saying growing fears of Islamic influence in Europe are overstated: "The discussion is really around issues of identity rather than what's really going on. There is definitely a change going on with immigration and so on, but the idea of being 'swamped' is not accurate. Also, the attention religion gets is disproportionate."

THE ATHEISTS' AGENDA
It's not just Islam that worries secularists. For the delegates at the World Atheist Conference the question of separation of church and state has taken on new urgency.

Despite the relatively small numbers, the conference includes high-profile figures such as outspoken US atheist and biology professor PZ Myers, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who has become a kind of figurehead for nonbelievers worldwide, and Iranian human rights activist Maryam Namazie, a member of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

Mr. Myers says Europeans' sense of their politics as wholly secular is inaccurate. "You guys aren't secular, or at least you aren't secular enough — there's all kinds of tensions between religion and society."

Myers notes that despite constitutional separation of church and state, the US remains more religious than Europe, but says this itself holds lessons for Europeans hoping to protect and expand secularism in society.

"America is much less secular than any country in Europe. The one thing that can be learned from the US is that you have to be watchful [for the encroachment of religion into politics]."

EUROPEAN BELIEFS
The most recent pan-European statistics reveal a secular Europe, but not quite a nonbelieving one.

Social values, Science, and Technology, a 2005 survey conducted by the European Union's statistical agency Eurostat, found that 52 percent of Europeans were believers.

Figures vary widely from country to county — 95 percent of Maltese citizens professing a belief in G0d whereas 38 percent of Britons professed belief. The highest percentage of atheists was found in France at 33 percent, and the lowest number of believers in Norway, a non-EU country, at 32 percent. The survey also found a new tendency it called "the development of a new kind of religion characterized by the belief that there is some sort of spirit or life force."

"This new religion or spirituality is more marked in certain Protestant countries, such as Sweden or Denmark, as well as in the Czech Republic and Estonia," says the report. The Rev. Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist priest and member of the liberal Association of Catholic Priests, says local and global trends have put the question of religion and secularism on the agenda across Europe.

"Pope Benedict talks a lot about secularism in Europe. He would see Christianity, and Catholicism specifically, as in conflict with it. Ireland, meanwhile, is in ferment with the Catholic Church in disarray and an enormous amount of the population looking for answers elsewhere," he said.

Father Flannery says worries about the Pope's conservative agenda may be overstated: "I don't think Pope Benedict is having any great influence. The Catholic church is quite weak across Europe."

Atheist conference organizer Michael Nugent notes the irony that official church and state tie-ups in Europe have produced a decline in religious observance.

"In some countries where there is an official state religion, such as Sweden and other Scandinavian nations, it is almost as if the fact of having this state religion dissipates the need to prosthelytize."

Mr. Hjelm of University College London says the deeper question is whether Europeans have long misunderstood the presence of faith in society. "Maybe Europe was never as secularized as we sociologists like to think," he said.

RELIGION IN IRELAND
After reeling from the Catholic sex-abuse scandal, this is a country that has certainly seen its faith tested. Eurostat put believers at 73 percent of the population and atheists at just 4, but things are changing.

In the Irish 2006 census, 186,300 respondents from the population of 4.2 million chose to enter "No Religion", making nonbelievers the largest group after Catholics.

"In 1960, the first time 'No Religion' was an option, only 1,000 people marked it," says conference organizer Michael Nugent.

Mr. Nugent, founder of campaign group Atheist Ireland, says the goal of the event is not to bash religion but to cement political life as secular, thus making religion a private matter.

"An atheist organization is not like a religion, it's more like a political and social advocacy group. We don't come together because people believe silly things, we do it because religion exerts political power.

"The challenges are different on different countries," says Nugent. "The campaigns in Ireland are about getting the government and institutions to recognize changes in society."

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© 2011, The Christian Science Monitor