Gay man once believed to be AIDS “patient zero” is no longer the case.

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Gay man once believed to be AIDS “patient zero” is no longer the case.

You may not have heard of Gaetan Dugas but you’ve likely heard what he’s long been called: “Patient Zero,” or the man who was so sexually promiscuous that he introduced HIV in the U.S.  In Randy Shilts’ landmark 1987 AIDS chronicle And the Band Played On, Dugas — a handsome French-Canadian flight attendant who died of AIDS in 1984 — is unflatteringly painted as the man who knowingly gave HIV to as many American gay men as possible in the early 1980s, unleashing the virus in major American cities.

But, as New York magazine’s Science of Us blog reports (via a story in Science magazine by longtime HIV/AIDS reporter Jon Cohen), new research shows that Dugas’ particular virus looks very different from versions of the virus that started circulating in the U.S. as early as 1970. Molecularly, Dugas’ virus looks much more like versions that were circulating much later on — and that the earliest versions of the virus in the U.S. are similar to those from Haiti.

This suggests that the first case(s) of HIV in the U.S. likely were from people who’d recently visited or come from that Haiti or nearby.

More than 30 years after Dugas’ death, this news is a sort of acquittal for a man who’d long been pinned as such a promiscuous sexual super-predator that he managed to seed HIV across the nation.


Naturopathy industry is being exposed by whistleblower.

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Naturopathy industry  is being exposed by whistleblower.

Having received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University, among the most influential schools of naturopathy in North America, Britt Marie Hermes practiced as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) for three years. Her world came crashing down when she realized she’d been duped, having spent thousands of hours “speaking, learning, and practicing fake medicine.”

“I went into naturopathy thinking it was the medicine of the future,” she says. She soon learned she was wrong.

Hermes, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in biomedicine, is devoted to exposing and fighting against pseudoscience masquerading as real medicine. She documents truths about naturopathy via her Naturopathic Diaries blog, speaks out to media, contributes to the highly respected Science Based Medicine blog and on May 21st started a petition calling on U.S. policy makers and states to block naturopathic licensure, scope of practice expansion and inclusion in federal and state healthcare programs.

The leading ND organization in the U.S., the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) has recently pushed for licensing in all 50 states by 2025 (they are currently licensed in 17 states), and to receive Medicare reimbursements and perform more hands-on patient care. Hermes’ hackles are raised, as they should be.

“Naturopaths are not trained similar to physicians, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants,” reads the petition Hermes authored, which has garnered nearly 4,000 signatures and counting. “Naturopaths are trained in a hodgepodge of antiquated methods, mystical theories, and bare-bone fundamentals of medicine.”

“I was scared. I was very angry. And I was so sad,” Hermes tells me of quitting her naturopathic medicine practice after finding out that Ukrain, the imported medicine made from a flowering herb that her boss was administering to cancer patients, was not FDA-approved. “Patients trusted us. They were very sick, desperate for a cure, and paying thousands of dollars.”

Here’s one problem with naturopathic doctors. The words “doctor,” “physician” and “medicine” carry trust. They bring to mind someone highly-skilled, someone who will use the best, most-evidence based tools available to keep us healthy and to treat us when we’re sick. But naturopathy isn’t medicine and NDs are not nearly as qualified as medical doctors, or even physician assistants according to Hermes.

I won’t go into details on the myriad follies of naturopathy and naturopathic medicine as they have been thoroughly documented by highly-respected experts and critics of alternative medicine like Dr. David Gorski and Dr. Steven Novella. Among the most damning is the requirement that all NDs be trained in the use of homeopathy, a pseudoscience based in magical thinking and concoctions with infinitesimal amounts of so-called active ingredient.

On May 26th, five days after Hermes launched her petition, the AANP feebly retaliated. The subject line of an email sent to all AANP membership:  “AANP Needs Your Help – Stop Britt’s Petition.”

“We need your help to stop this petition,” reads the email. It continues:

This petition violates these [] policies:

  • Breaks the law – this is defamatory and libelous content
  • Impersonates others;  Britt Marie Hermes is not from the United States
  • Terms of service – does not abide by the law or respect the rights of others

AANP is grasping at straws here. Hermes, who is originally from California and was born and raised in the United States, lives in Germany with her husband but is still an American citizen. And Hermes isn’t backing down. “[AANP seems] threatened, and don’t have a grip on reality in their reasoning for reporting the petition,” she says. She stands by the citations in her petition. “It is definitely not defamatory or libelous.” Though the email voices AANP’s hope that will respond to the reports of policy violations “in a timely manner,” Hermes’ petition remains published and continues to gain signatures.

Presumably because AANP realized that its own reasoning to remove the petition wasn’t sound, the organization’s Executive Director Ryan Cliche moved on to the next tactic, starting a counter-petition a day after sending the email. “[W]e are confident that your due diligence will quickly uncover the truth behind the ‘Naturopaths are not doctors’ petition,” reads the retaliatory document.

“I take their interpretation as yet another example of them not understanding how the scientific process works,” says Hermes. “It is built on criticism, and given what they are asking in their political agenda, they deserve to be highly scrutinized.”

AANP’s counter-petition urges U.S. policy makers to “Recognize Licensed Naturopathic Physicians for the Safe and Effective Care They Provide.”

Safe and effective? Therein lies the fatal flaw in federal and state governments recognizing naturopathic doctors. The naturopathic medicine standard of care is woefully inadequate. The standard is not safe. It’s not effective. Yet Cliche’s petition cites the NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and its “recognition of naturopathy” as a legitimate discipline to support the effort to become licensed in all 50 states.

This exemplifies what is wrong with the NCCIH and any government recognition of the profession. It allows naturopathic doctors to prance around saying, “See? We’re credible. The NIH says so.” With all due respect to the NIH, there should be no NCCIH (formerly known as NCCAM). As Dr. Gorski writes, the fundamental problem with NCCIH is that “it is charged with studying treatment modalities that are inherently unscientific, being as they are based on prescientific or demonstrably incorrect understandings of human physiology and disease.”

Recognition by NCCIH lends no credence to AANP’s cause, though unsuspecting patients and even aspiring NDs may not realize it. The words “complementary” and “integrative” say it all. Legitimate medicine is based on evidence and science. There is no integration within a gold standard, no complementing it with anything more than wishful thinking.


Some scientists suspect our brains are just fancy computers.

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Some scientists suspect our brains are just fancy computers.

Something very cool happened recently in Minnesota. At the Seven Pines Symposium, where well-regarded theorists come together to discuss core philosophical questions in science, two famous thinkers on computation and the brain held a debate. On one side was Roger Penrose, an 84-year-old Oxford mathematical physicist responsible for some of the fundamental building blocks of modern physics. On the other was Scott Aaronson, a 35-year-old theoretical computer scientist at MIT who’s considered as one of the most important researchers in his field.

The question up for debate: Is your brain nothing more than a fancy computer?


Penrose has made enormous contributions to the study of general relativity and the large-scale structure of the universe. But he’s probably best known in popular culture for his somewhat idiosyncratic ideas about the human brain: Namely, that thought and consciousness exist outside the limits of conventional, computational logic and physics. Penrose, to summarize several books’ worth of ideas in a single sentence, argues that the human brain transcends algorithmic computation through an exotic, undiscovered physics that empowers it to interact with the quantum world. In that way, he says, it is fundamentally unlike a computer.

Aaronson disagrees, though he takes pains to explain how much he respects the older scientist’s perspective.

(“It was hard to decide which prospect I dreaded more,” he writes, “me ‘scoring a debate victory’ over Roger Penrose, or him scoring a debate victory over me.”)

There are a number of points and subtleties to understand in his critique of the idea that brains are somehow different from computers. But the most important parts come down to the limits of our brains and sheer possible power of computers.

Fundamentally, Aaronson said, he doesn’t see any reason to accept that human brains are capable of processes and answering problems that conventional computers – if supplied with enough power and the right software – could not.

Humans as a group might seem to converge toward some truths you can’t achieve through formal logic, Aaronson argues. But there’s no reason to believe that that’s a result of anything other than trial and error and the scientific method, both skills computers could conceivably learn.

Further, he doesn’t see any reason a complete human brain couldn’t be simulated in a computer, even if right now we lack the power:

A biologist asked how I could possibly have any confidence that the brain is simulable by a computer, given how little we know about neuroscience. I replied that, for me, the relevant issues here are “well below neuroscience” in the reductionist hierarchy. Do you agree, I asked, that the physical laws relevant to the brain are encompassed by the Standard Model of elementary particles, plus Newtonian gravity? If so, then just as Archimedes declared: “give me a long enough lever and a place to stand, and I’ll move the earth,” so too I can declare, “give me a big enough computer and the relevant initial conditions, and I’ll simulate the brain atom-by-atom.” The Church-Turing Thesis, I said, is so versatile that the only genuine escape from it is to propose entirely new laws of physics, exactly as Penrose does-and it’s to Penrose’s enormous credit that he understands that.

In other words: If you agree that your brain exists in the physical universe, and we know that computers can model the physical universe, it’s reasonable to assume that given enough power and information, computers can model your brain.


Scientists confirm there’s a second layer of information hidden in our DNA.

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Scientists confirm there’s a second layer of information hidden in our DNA.

Theoretical physicists have confirmed that it’s not just the information coded into our DNA that shapes who we are – it’s also the way DNA folds itself that controls which genes are expressed inside our bodies.

That’s something biologists have known for years, and they’ve even been able to figure out some of the proteins responsible for folding up DNA. But now a group of physicists have been able to demonstrate for the first time through simulations how this hidden information controls our evolution.

Let’s back up for a second here, because although it’s not necessarily news to many scientists, this second level of DNA information might not be something you’re familiar with.

As you probably learnt in high school, Watson and Crick discovered in 1953 that the DNA code that determines who we are is made up of a sequence of the letters G, A, C, and T.

The order of these letters determines which proteins are made in our cells. So, if you have brown eyes, it’s because your DNA contains a particular series of letters that encodes for a protein that makes the dark pigment inside your iris.

But that’s not the whole story, because all the cells in your body start out with the exact same DNA code, but every organ has a very different function – your stomach cells don’t need to produce the brown eye protein, but they do need to produce digestive enzymes. So how does that work?

Since the ’80s, scientists have found that the way DNA is folded up inside our cells actually controls this process. Environmental factors can play a big role in this process too, with things like stress known to turn certain genes on and off through something known as epigenetics.

But the mechanics of the DNA folding is the original control mechanism. That’s because every single cell in our body contains around 2 metres of DNA, so to fit inside us, it has to be tightly wrapped up into a bundle called a nucleosome – like a thread around a spool.

And the way the DNA is wrapped up controls which genes are ‘read’ by the rest of the cell – genes that are all wrapped on the inside won’t be expressed as proteins, but those on the outside will. This explains why different cells have the same DNA but different functions.

In recent years, biologists have even started to isolate the mechanical cues that determine the way DNA is folded, by ‘grabbing onto’ certain parts of the genetic code or changing the shape of the ‘spool’ the DNA is wrapped around.

So far, so good, but what do theoretical physicists have to do with all this?

A team from Leiden University in the Netherlands has now been able to step back and look at the process on a whole-genome scale, and confirm through computer simulations that these mechanical cues are actually coded into our DNA.

The physicists, led by Helmut Schiessel, did this by simulating the genomes of both baker’s yeast and fission yeast, and then randomly assigning them a second level of DNA information, complete with mechanical cues.

They were able to show that these cues affected how the DNA was folded and which proteins are expressed – further evidence that the mechanics of DNA are written into our DNA, and they’re just as important in our evolution as the code itself.

This means the researchers have shown that there’s more than one way that DNA mutations can affect us: by changing the letters in our DNA, or simply by changing the mechanical cues that arrange the way a strand is folded.

“The mechanics of the DNA structure can change, resulting in different packaging and levels of DNA accessibility,” they explain, “and therefore differing frequency of production of that protein.”

Again, this is confirming what many biologists already knew, but what’s really exciting is the fact that the computer simulations open up the possibility for scientists manipulate the mechanical cues that shape DNA – which means they might one day be able to fold DNA to hide unwanted genes, like the ones that trigger disease.

We’re a long way off doing that, but the more scientists understand about how our DNA is controlled and folded, the closer we get to being able to improve upon it.


10 Most Notorious Suicide Cults in History.

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10 Most Notorious Suicide Cults in History.

In ancient times and during the Dark Ages it was common for entire groups of people to commit suicide to avoid subjugation to enemy invaders, whilst in the past few centuries ritual suicide has been seen within religious offshoots and collectives who follow cults of the occult.

10. Puputan, Bali

Honor and pride were the pillars of ancient kingdoms throughout the world, to the point where death was preferable to subjugation. In 1906 a Balinese ritual mass suicide, known as Puputan, was committed so that its practitioners would avoid being captured and enslaved by the Dutch invaders. The Raja commanded that all valuables be burnt and that everyone from the youngest child to the wives and priests be marched ceremoniously towards the aggressors. When face to face with the Dutch regiment, the head priest thrust a dagger deep into the Raja’s heart signaling the commencement of Puputan. From here the entire group simultaneously began to kill one another while the women mockingly flung money and jewelery onto the stupefied troops. Over 1000 Balinese people committed suicide on that warm September afternoon, leaving little for the Dutch to do. Today children are taught about Puputan and the day is commemorated with make believe street reenactments.

9. Order of the Solar Temple, Switzerland and Canada

The Order of the Solar Temple, headquartered in Switzerland and operating in Canada as well, is the secret society that believes in the continued existence of the Knights Templar. Their aims are to establish correct notions of authority and power in the world, to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus, and to unify the Christian and Islamic faiths. Their activities include a blend of early Protestant Christianity and New Age philosophy. For many years, murders and suicides have been associated with the cult, including the 1994 Canadian murder of a 3-month-old boy, who was ritually sacrificed because he was identified as the Anti-Christ. Then in October of the same year, 48 adults and children were found dead, shot through the head, victims of a mass suicide in a Swiss underground chapel that was found lined with items of Templar symbolism.

8. Harakiri, Japan

A true tale of terror involving blood, guts and gore comes in the form of the Japanese ritual suicide, known as Seppuku or Harakiri. As part of the Samurai Bushido code of honor, suicide by disembowelment was practiced to retain honor or lessen shame. The individual would take a short sword known as a tanto and plunge it into his abdomen, making an excruciatingly painful and lethal cut. Lastly, to ensure certain death the Samurai’s assistant would decapitate him. It was a common custom during battle by means of which warriors avoided death or torture by the enemy, though it was also used to punish serious offenses. Although capital punishment was abolished in 1873, voluntary Seppuku was recorded well into the 1900s – notably at the end of WWII, when numerous soldiers and civilians publicly performed Seppuku to avoid surrender. Then, in 1970 a group of rebels committed public Seppuku at the Japan Self-Defence Forces headquarters after an unsuccessful attempt to stage a coup d’etat.

7. Sicarii Rebels, Masada, Israel

In 60 AD, a time when spears and catapults were the weapons of war, the Roman conquest of Judea forced 960 zealot Jews to first seize and then barricade themselves atop King Herod’s fortress. The citadel, built on a rock plateau in the Judean Desert, was (and still remains) the site of ancient fortifications and palaces. The group lived there for half a decade, building homes and slowly expanding, until the Roman siege of 72 AD, when Emperor Lucius Flavius Silvius commissioned an enormous ramp with which to breach the walls of the fort and capture the rebels. Little did he know that at its summit were smoldering buildings and the rotting cadavers of those who chose death over surrender. Only two women and five children survived to tell the story of how their people had been exterminated – summed up in the words of the zealot leader, Eleazar ben Yair, in his final speech: “Let our wives be killed before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted slavery, and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually…”

6. Jauhar, Rajput, India

A similar story unraveled in the depths of the Indian subcontinent. Jauhar describes the practice of female mass suicide that occurred in Rajput kingdoms during Mughal times so that women could avoid capture and dishonor at the hands of enemy invaders. In the 14th century, Rani Padmini, the queen of Chittor, led all the royal ladies and their children to jump into a bonfire in order to protect themselves from the Sultan of Delhi’s lustful army. Whilst the women and children would perform self-immolation, the men (fathers, husbands and sons) would charge against the attackers, facing certain death, a practice intended to protect both the sexes’ honor. A second and third Jauhar took place in Chittor during the 16th century, which saw the obliteration of entire Rajput lineages.

5. Self-immolation, Vietnam

Ritual suicide is not always connected to supernatural offerings or salvationist logic as has often been the case in contemporary times. In the case of Buddhist monks in the sixties ritual suicide was a sign of protest against the Vietnam War. Thích Quang Duc fearlessly burnt himself to death in a busy Saigon road in 1963 to protest the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam’s administration. Despite being revered as a Bodhisattva (a being that has attained Nirvana) by the world’s Buddhist communities, the government repudiated the action and punished the monks further, many of whom followed Thích Quang Duc’s example by performing self-immolation in public places. Although self-harm is prohibited in the Buddhist religion, self-immolation was perceived as a selfless action by the monks – an act that spread the light of the Dharma and opened the eyes of those around them.

4. Heaven’s Gate, San Diego, California

This next entry is a real life story of horror meets UFO sci-fi, for the 1970s Heaven’s Gate cult based their belief system on a combination of Christian ideas of the apocalypse and elements of science fiction. If their ideas were to be believed, planet Earth was due to be wiped clean by supernatural forces, and the only path to salvation was to escape to the “Next Level”. According to founder Marshall Applewhite, this escape could be achieved through an ascetic existence, which meant detachment from family, friends, jobs, possessions and other trappings of modern existence. In 1997, however, Applewhite announced a fast-track route to the Next Level: boarding a spacecraft that was trailing the comet Hale-Bopp. On March 26th, when the comet was at its brightest, Applewhite and 38 of his followers committed suicide in order to abandon their terrestrial forms and gain access to the UFO.

3. The Branch Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists, Waco, Texas

The “Branch” is (for it still survives) a Protestant sect born in 1959 during a schism with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, when Florence Houteff announced the Second Coming of Jesus on the summit of a hilltop in Texas. Following the failure of this prophecy, a number of “Prophets” took center stage, the most prominent being Vernon Howell (later renamed David Koresh), who indoctrinated the group into believing that he alone had the responsibility and authorization to prophesize and reproduce the “House of David”. In 1994, after allegations of illegal firearm ownership and child abuse, the ATF obtained a warrant to search the premises; but their offensive strategy was met with barricades and gunfire. After many days of fighting, the FBI was afraid of mass suicides and tried to corner the followers with tear gas. However the compound was set on fire from within, killing 80 people. Whether this was mass suicide or an FBI cover-up remains unclear.

2. Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, Uganda

The MRTC were an apocalyptic Catholic offshoot established in the 1980s after an alleged vision of the Virgin Mary, ordering strict obedience to the Ten Commandments. The sect members spoke very little and sometimes adopted sign language to avoid bearing false witness to their neighbor, they prohibited sex to avoid adultery, and they implemented bi-weekly fasting. As the supposed year of the apocalypse drew near, daily confession was encouraged, the sell-off of possessions was enforced, and work in the fields ceased. However, when ‘Judgment Day’ failed to occur the followers began to question their leaders’ authenticity, and so a second doomsday was announced for March 17th, whereby all the 1000 followers, adults and children were invited to celebrate their imminent salvation. Little did they know this would culminate in self-immolation and poisoning.

1. People’s Temple Jonestown Massacre, Guyana

This frightening tale of mass suicide was carried out by members of the People’s Temple, a cult born in the 1950s with the supposed objective of practicing Apostolic Socialism. In the 1970s a Caribbean missionary post was established in Guyana; “Jonestown” was allegedly a benevolent communist community and sanctuary for racial and social equality headed by leader and self-styled prophet Jim Jones. However Jones, claiming to be the Messiah, applied mind-control strategies to brainwash the sect and receive full and incontestable devotion; implemented torture holes to solve disciplinary matters (for both adults and children); and had sexual control over women and children.

In November 1978, strange disappearances began to occur, including the murder of inspecting California Congressman Leo Ryan and a number of fugitives from the ‘camp’. Afraid of American retaliation, Jones brainwashed his 912 followers into preserving the People’s Temple for eternity by committing the ultimate sacrifice. Poisoning themselves, they thus participated to the largest mass suicide in modern history.


Anti-gay pastor arrested on 70 counts of child pornography.

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Anti-gay pastor arrested on 70 counts of child pornography.

This is Dave Reynolds, the recently fired pastor of the Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in Sherwood, Arkansas. He’s currently facing 70 counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing child pornography.

Oh, and he’s also vehemently antigay.

The 40-year-old pastor regularly preached that marriage is between a man and a woman and that all homosexual activity is a sin.

He was arrested after police received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which claimed that a social media account in Sherwood was storing pages and pages of child pornography.

The account allegedly belonged to Reynolds.

In March, Reynolds informed elders at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship that he was under investigation for child porn possession.

When they asked if he had engaged in viewing the material, Reynolds told them he had “not knowingly done so.”

The elders ultimately decided to relieve Reynolds of his duties and put out a statement saying the church was fully cooperating with police.

Our present concern is with the people of Cornerstone to whom the Lord has entrusted us as shepherds,” the church said in a statement. “We have been and will continue to pursue all avenues to determine whether any of Cornerstone’s people may have been directly or indirectly affected by any actions Dave may have taken.”

Meanwhile, Reynolds is maintaining his innocence.

In a statement released earlier this week, his attorney, Blake Hendrix, said, “Mr. Reynolds has pleaded not guilty and intends to vigorously defend himself against the accusations.”

Reynolds appeared in Sherwood District Court on Wednesday.

Bond was set at $250,000.


10 Facts About Atheists – A new study by The Pew Research Center.

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10 Facts About Atheists – A new study by The Pew Research Center.

Estimating the number of atheists in the U.S. is complicated. Some adults who describe themselves as atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. At the same time, some people who identify with a religion (e.g., say they are Protestant, Catholic or Jewish) also say they do not believe in God.

But one thing is for sure: Along with the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans (many of whom believe in God), there has been a corresponding increase in the number of atheists. As nonbelievers and others gather in Washington, D.C., for the “Reason Rally,” here are key facts about atheists and their beliefs:

1. The share of Americans who identify as atheists has roughly doubled in the past several years. Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study found that 3.1% of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity, up from 1.6% in a similarly large survey in 2007. An additional 4.0% of Americans call themselves agnostics, up from 2.4% in 2007.

2. Atheists, in general, are more likely to be male and younger than the overall population68% are men, and the median age of atheist adults in the U.S. is 34 (compared with 46 for all U.S. adults). Atheists also are more likely to be white (78% are Caucasian vs. 66% for the general public) and highly educated: About four-in-ten atheists (43%) have a college degree, compared with 27% of the general public.

3. Self-identified atheists tend to be aligned with the Democratic Party and with political liberalism. About two-thirds of atheists (69%) identify as Democrats (or lean in that direction), and a majority (56%) call themselves political liberals (compared with just one-in-ten who say they are conservatives). Atheists overwhelmingly favor same-sex marriage (92%) and legal abortion (87%). In addition, three-quarters (74%) say that government aid to the poor does more good than harm.

4. Although the literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who believes that God does not exist,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary8% of those who call themselves atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. Indeed, 2% say they are “absolutely certain” about the existence of God or a universal spirit. Alternatively, there are many people who fit the dictionary definition of “atheist” but do not call themselves atheists. About three times as many Americans say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit (9%) as say they are atheists (3%).

5. Unsurprisingly, more than nine-in-ten self-identified atheists say religion is not too or not at all important in their lives, and nearly all (97%) say they seldom or never pray. At the same time, many do not see a contradiction between atheism and pondering their place in the world. Three-in-ten (31%) say they feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being at least weekly. A similar share (35%) often thinks about the meaning and purpose of life. And roughly half of all atheists (54%) frequently feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe, up from 37% in 2007. In fact, atheists are more likely than U.S. Christians to say they often feel a sense of wonder about the universe (54% vs. 45%).

6. In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, self-identified atheists were asked how often they share their views on God and religion with religious people. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they do at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people. By comparison, 26% of those who have a religious affiliation share their views at least once a week with those who have other beliefs; 43% say they seldom or never do.

7. Virtually no atheists (1%) turn to religion for guidance on questions of right and wrong, but increasing numbers are turning to scienceAbout a third of atheists (32%) say they look primarily to science for guidance on questions of right and wrong, up from 20% in 2007. A plurality (44%) still cite “practical experience and common sense” as their primary guide on such questions, but that is down from 52% in 2007.

8. Americans like atheists less than they like members of most major religious groups. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey asked Americans to rate groups on a “feeling thermometer” from zero (as cold and negative as possible) to 100 (the warmest, most positive possible rating). U.S. adults gave atheists an average rating of 41, comparable to the rating they gave Muslims (40) and far colder than the average given to Jews (63), Catholics (62) and evangelical Christians (61).

9. About half of Americans (51%) say they would be less likely to support an atheist candidate for president, more than say the same about a candidate with any other trait mentioned in a Pew Research Center survey – including being Muslim. This figure, while still high, has declined in recent years – in early 2007, 63% of U.S. adults said they would be less likely to support an atheist presidential candidate. There are currently no self-described atheists serving in Congress, although there is one House member, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who describes herself as religiously unaffiliated.

10. About half of Americans (53%) say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral, while 45% say belief in God is necessary to have good values, according to a 2014 survey. In other wealthy countries, smaller shares tend to say that a belief in God is essential for good morals, including just 15% in France. But in many other parts of the world, nearly everyone says that a person must believe in God to be moral, including 99% in Indonesia and Ghana and 98% in Pakistan.