Over the past year, there were so many news stories in which religion played a central role. In some cases, atheists were affected directly. In others we saw just how awful religious beliefs could be. Which I think also affects us in some indirect way. So I made a list of the stories I felt were the most significant. And it’s slightly different one than the one I posted on my website earlier. I’d love to hear your feedback on it, especially if you think there are big stories that I missed. Number 11. Thousands leave the Mormon church in a mass exodus. After the Mormon church announced that gay people in same-sex relationships would soon be considered apostates. And their children, would be punished too by the church if they didn’t disavow their parents. Thousands of people submitted their resignations to the Mormon church in a single day. That was the last straw for them. All the sentimental reasons they may have had for remaining in the church; even though they longer believed in the theology; It didn’t matter any more. They were overtaken by a desire to break free from an institution that was actively denigrating people who had done nothing wrong. Let’s hope those dominos keep falling. Number ten. John Oliver exposes faith based fraud. In a brilliant segment criticizing Christian televangelists who con viewers out of their life savings; and the IRS for not going after them enough; John Oliver and his team at “Last Week Tonight” created an actual church with the sole purpose of taking people’s money. That money was eventually donated to Doctors Without Borders, but the point is, it didn’t need to be. “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption”, exposed some of the worst practices in the Christian world. And became a church that atheists everywhere could embrace. Number nine. NFL star Arian Foster says he doesn’t believe in God. Arian Foster said, quote, “I don’t believe there’s a God” in “ESPN the Magazine” this year. Making him the highest profile openly atheist athlete in the country. Perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t seem to have hurt his image at all. Let’s just hope he recovers from his season-ending Achilles tendon injury and becomes a star player once again. Number eight. The Satanic Temple takes aim at religious freedom laws. This year, the Satanic Temple forced a Florida school district stop its Bible distributions; used the religious freedom argument to fight back against a Missouri law that forced women to wait 72 hours before obtaining an abortion And tried to get a Baphomet statue in any state capitol building where there was a ten commandments monument on the grounds. It seemed like they were everywhere this year. It got to the point where the term “Lucien’s Law” was created to describe the power of the temple’s spokesperson Lucien Greaves. He was, like, the “nuclear option” when it came to church-state separation cases; swooping in anytime Christians were trying to use the government to get special treatment. Number seven. An atheist kills three Muslims in Chapel HIll. This is a tragic story and the details are still somewhat shaky. But earlier this year an atheist; 46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks, killed three young Muslims in their apartment outside the University of North Carolina at Chapel HIll. Now, while their religious differences had not been reported as a cause for the crime, Hicks apparently really was frustrated over parking spaces. There’s no denying where he stood on the God question. For a while, at least, we had to consider the fact that a man who likes the same authors, bloggers, You Tubers and memes that so many of us do was responsible for this despicable crime. Whatever the motive, turns out to be, you can bet this is one of those cases that people will be holding over the heads of atheists, whether we deserve it or not for years to come. Number six. The rise of prayer shaming. After 14 people were killed in San Bernardino California, the New York Daily News front cover said what so many atheists have been thinking for so long. It said that prayer isn’t a good enough response after a tragedy; and God isn’t fixing this. Especially when those platitudes come from politicians who have the ability to enact gun control legislation, but refuse to do anything about it. Their thoughts and prayers ring hollow. And this year they were finally called out on it. To be clear, prayer shaming doesn’t mean people can’t pray as a way to grieve. But it properly criticizes those who offer only meaningless gestures in lieu of meaningful responses. Number five. The Supreme Court legalizes marriage equality. The only arguments you seem to hear now-a-days as to why marriage equality should not be legal, comes from religious people pointing to their holy books. And the Supreme Court’s Ogberfell ruling showed that there really is no objective case for why marriage rights should be denied to same sex couples. In some ways, it must have been a relief for social conservatives who must know that their fighting a losing battle here. If they want to, they can now just say “the law’s the law” and move on to other topics. If anything the court’s decision will only hasten acceptance of same sex marriage making it that much harder for the religious right to argue that gay marriage is somehow a threat to society. But we all know they’re still gonna try to make that case. And you know what that means? It means that its gonna be that much easier in the future for young people to walk away from a faith that fails on the simplest moral question of our time. Number four. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are killed In January the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were killed in their Paris offices by Islamic extremists who were offended that the magazine poked fun at their beleifs. That happened even tough the cartoonists routinely satirized other religions. In fact, even more so than Islam. As if the murders weren’t bad encouth What was really disturbing to me, as well, were some of the conversations taking place after the slaughter. People were saying “maybe we should ban blasphemy”. And some people even went to far as to suggest that the cartoonists brought this upon themselves. Number three. Bangladeshi bloggers are attacked and killed for their views. Beginning in February with Dr. Avijit Roy, and then happening every couple of months or so after that, atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, and some people connected to them, were systematically slaughtered by Islamic terrorists who were offended by things they had written. Government officials there were slow to arrest anyone. And in some cases they even blamed the atheists for criticizing Islam. There are still several names on a hit list circulating in social media. And those people are either trying to het the hell out of the country, or just avoid a gruesome fate of their own. We don’t know how many more people are going to be murdered. But it’s almost a safe bet now that the death count is only going to go up in the next year. This is the price they pay for criticizing religion in a country where free speech is a farce. We should be grateful to live in a nation where, you know, for all of its flaws at least we don’t have to fear for our lives when we criticize the majority’s sacred beliefs. Number two. Josh Duggar’s hypocrisy is exposed. You know, it would have been bad enough if we were just talking about how Josh Duggar molested some of his sisters more than a decade ago. But after “In Touch” magazine revealed a massive cover up by his parents, sponsors of their TV show fled. And TLC eventually cancelled “19 Kids and counting” And all of that was before we found out Josh was trying to meet women on “Ashley Madison” and he’d slept with porn stars whom he roughed up beyond anything that was consentual. For a family known for their “Christian values”, who actually campaigned against anti-discrimination laws by using the argument that transgender people were sexual predators; their collapse was our Schadenfreude. Josh Duggar’s downfall was arguably the biggest example of Christian hypocrisy since Pastor Ted Haggard was caught seeing a male escort. Number one. Kim Davis becomes a punchline. The Kentucky clerk decided that her Christian views trumped secular laws, even though she was in a government position. By the time Kim Davis finished her six day stint in jail and gay couples could finally get married in Rowan county, 74 percent of Americans, many of whom were Christian, agreed that equality under the law was more important than someone’s personal “religious” freedoms. By overstepping her bounds, Davis actually showed that religious freedom needs limits. I mean, she became the obstacle for loving gay couples who wanted nothing more than the marriage certificate that they were legally entitled to. It was another PR disaster for the religious right and another nail in the coffin for their supposed values. My name is Hemant Metha and I write at friendlyatheist.com. What do you want to see a video about? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll be sure to check it out. And don’t forget to subscribe.