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  1. Clarion says that Christianity was the most persecuted group in 2016. Given Clarion's bias I expected the story to be that Islam was the reason, but it seems Islam is only responsible for some of it. North Korea also appears to be a significant contributor. "The report said that 90,000 Christians were killed last year, of which 30% were killed by Islamists. The rest were killed by state and non-state persecution around the world, including in North Korea" Makes me wonder what other non-Muslim states and groups persecute Christians. Anyone care to enlighten me?
  2. This weekend I had the opportunity to attend an atheism/skepticism/reason conference in the Southern US. I attend many work related conferences as both an exhibitor and delegate, so I expected a similar experience. However, this event felt more like a family reunion than a meeting of strangers. The most diverse group of people I have ever witnessed in one place, (in terms of age, race, sexual orientation, employment and gender) freely mingled and chatted openly, honestly and in an incredibly congenial manner on all topics both personal and public. The conference was full of outstanding speakers on a wide range of topics but that aspect almost paled in comparison to the countless conversations I had. From these talks I learned how easy it is for me to be an atheist and how painfully hard it can be for those from strong religious families or in the US South in general. I spoke with countless Americans that have lost their jobs solely because they were not Christian. I listened to other heart wrenching stories of people that were ostracized by their family and social groups for simply stating that something is wrong with their belief system. Being an open atheist can be such a painful process for so many, especially in the South, that hotlines and groups of trained listeners exist to help provide support, prevent suicides and really just let people know they are not alone. http://recoveringfromreligion.org/It's amazing how many atheists are posing as believers just to avoid the pain of starting over socially. The biggest opposition I have ever experienced as an atheist was the fact that my wife didn't want her parents' hardcore Baptist friends to know the nature of the conference I was attending. Coming out as an atheist is often more contentious than any other declaration. Though it can be far more difficult to proclaim one's homosexuality, nobody considers that to be a value judgement on heterosexuals. However, stating that I am an atheist is an automatic, unspoken declaration that I think theistic beliefs are fake and ridiculous. Has anyone had or known someone that has had a noteworthy experience when leaving religion behind? Or would anyone have a problem if a son, daughter, spouse or any other family member or friend decided to tell you that they have lost faith in faith?
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