atheism news briefs mormons christians
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Blogger’s Note: There’s a lot more going on in the world of interest to atheists than a one-man blog of single-issue posts can effectively spotlight. So,starting today Godzooks! will periodically dedicate posts to news briefs from around the planet. We’ll call it “Factoids for the Faithless,” unless someone has a better idea.

atheism news briefs mormons christians
Mormon temple, USA. (Quinn Dombrowski, Flikr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Perversely, Mormons plan China temple

The American Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a., Mormons) plan to found a temple in China, according to World Religion News. Although the Chinese constitution ostensibly codifies religious freedom for its citizens, the Chinese Communist Party closely regulates faith in that nation, and “foreign churches” are prohibited from allowing participation by Chinese citizens, “even requiring foreign passports to enter,” the News noted.

No matter. The Mormon church has announced it plans to build a temple in Shanghai, one of China’s largest and most consequential cities.

atheism news briefs mormons christians
Church crosses in Shandong, China. (Gauthier Delecroix, Flikr, CC BY 2.0)

China yanks crosses from Christian churches

In a related bit of news, also reported by World Religion News, the Chinese government ordered the removal in January of crosses from some 250 Christian churches in the country, even if they were properly registered with authorities and adhered to the Chinese Communist Party’s legal regulations governing churches.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China’s regime is continuing its “decades-long war on faith” and that religious persecution has intensified in the past year, MSN News reported earlier this month.

“The Chinese Communist Party is now ordering religious organizations to obey CCP leadership and infuse communist dogma into their teachings and practice of their faith,” Pompeo said during a press briefing, according to MSN.

American Atheists probes bailout money to churches

In tandem with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed June 16, the church/state watchdog organization American Atheists announced it is investigating the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for allegedly providing tax-funded financial bailouts to churches as part of the nearly $700 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The week before, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the Trump Administration would keep secret the identifies of businesses and nonprofits that were provided bailout funding, including houses of worship. The FOIA request seeks SBA records, such as PPP borrower applications, for nonprofits, including faith organizations, and written communications between SBA and PPP applicants.

“The Trump Administration should never have funneled taxpayer dollars toward religious worship. This is patently unconstitutional,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists. “Now that it has happened, we demand complete transparency to determine the scope of this unconstitutional activity and the extent of any favoritism.”

Nigerian humanist dissident arrested, threatened

atheism news briefs mormons christians
Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala. (Newhumanist.org.uk)

In an incident that spotlights the irrationality of religious bigotry, Mubarak Bala, a prominent Nigerian humanist accused of blasphemy by authorities in Muslim Kano state, has reportedly been arrested, and supporters are fearful for his safety, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.

“We condemn his arrest and are extremely worried because this came after several threats made by the religious community in Kano,” said Leo Igw, a fellow Nigerian humanist and human rights advocate. “They are likely to try him under sharia law in Kano, which could lead to capital punishment.”

Igwe said Bala, who is president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, has been denied legal representation, and that various opponents have been “threatening him and promising to end his life.”

Ironically, Bala, who lives in Nigeria’s Muslim North, might find himself also persecuted for his humanist ideas in the South, which is predominantly and devoutly Christian.

Study: Atheists more magnanimous than Christians

Not only are atheists not bad people, as stereotypically assumed by many Christians, they are actually in some ways more generous at heart and fairer.

A new Ohio University study found that atheists are more generous towards Christians than vice versa, Church & State reported. The results were revealed in a “dictator game” conducted during the study, in which atheists and Christians were on the same teams.

When told of their partner’s religious beliefs, atheists “behaved impartially toward in-group and out-group partners,” the study’s authors wrote in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. However, “Christians consistently demonstrated an in-group bias.” Colleen Cowgill, lead author of the study and a Ph.D. student, told PsyPost that she decided to do the study “to see how atheists respond to negative stereotyping” — the view is that nonbelievers are “immoral and untrustworthy” — which many atheists find distressing.

“We often see that negative stereotypes about a group can lead members of that group to behave in compensatory ways that ostensibly seek to disconfirm that stereotype, such as when American immigrants strive to emphasize their American identity when it is threatened,” Cowgill said.

Indeed, the study seemed to bear out this hypothesis in regard to atheists.

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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...