Making Progress in Poland

by Bill Cooke
February 03, 2014

We all know that good things take time. Nowhere does democracy emerge fully mature, open and transparent. It takes dedicated people to make these things happen. Poland’s progress to open, mature democracy is faltering, with the Catholic Church and far right elements acting as drags on liberalization. Against these powerful forces CFI-Poland is quietly working away. Andrzej Dominiczak, head of CFI-Poland, has built up a reputation for fair-minded and objective work across a range of normally deeply divisive topics.

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Bhinneka Tunggal ika

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 03, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

Excellent news on Friday, as CFI was able to independently confirm that Alexander Aan, the persecuted Indonesian atheist, has been released from prison. Michael De Dora has more, including why all is not roses yet for Alex

Over the weekend, CFI's Debbie Goddard and I took part in Google Hangout panel discussions for Freethought Blogs' FTBCon2. Debbie did one on community building and one on trans men and trans masculinity, and I did one on social media at conferences.

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Alexander Aan released from prison

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
January 31, 2014

Yes, the news reports are accurate: Alexander Aan, a former Indonesian civil servant jailed for expressing his lack of belief in a God on Facebook, was released from prison January 27 after serving 18 months of a 30-month sentence. 


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Infinitely Many Infinities

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 31, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

CFI boss Ron Lindsay announces he's got a new book coming out this year from Pitchstone Press on the need to untangle religion from policy. It was either that idea, or this one

I know, I know... people probably wanted an anthology of my wildly popular blog posts. Maybe next time. 

Ahem. 

CFI's Debbie Goddard weighs in at Religion News Service on the wisdom of the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate:

If we don’t let [creationists'] ideas see the light of day we can’t develop the tools to address them. And we don’t just need the tools of facts and evidence, but also of understanding their views and compassion for them if we want to be effective at changing their minds. 

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The Gordon Stein Collection

Access Points with Timothy Binga
January 30, 2014

My seventeen-year anniversary working as the director of the various libraries and archives at the Center for Inquiry (CFI) is fast approaching. When I started here on February 2, 1997, we had around twelve thousand books between the various collections. Currently, we have about seventy thousand books, about 40 percent of which is not yet cataloged; plus, we have acquired numerous collections of mixed materials and periodicals from a variety of sources. One of the most interesting collections we ever acquired is the Gordon Stein Collection.

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Saving Throw vs. Clerical Robe

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 30, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

RNS's Brian Pellot interviews our own Michael De Dora about our international work defending free expression, and it's stellar. Michael says:

The fact that these [oppressive] governments know we exist and care about someone jailed in their countries and that people are up in arms over in the U.S. is a success, and it’s spreading. ... In the long run, this kind of activism will lead people in positions of power to listen and to address our concerns. Freedom of expression is a right everyone should enjoy, not just atheists and Christians.

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Dr. Bateman’s Pectoral Drops

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 29, 2014

During some research, I was intrigued by an entry in an old general store ledger from West Liberty, Kentucky, in 1830 for “1 Vial Batmans [sic] drops.” Although I suspected this was just a patent medicine of the day, I was surprised to learn of its staying power as a product marketed (and imitated) for some two centuries.

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A Toddler’s Conception of Time and Space

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 29, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

Members of the Reality-Based Community™ were heartened to hear President Obama declare that "climate change is a fact" so strongly at the State of the Union last night. Eugene Robinson wants us to start girding our loins for the inevitable:

President Obama, who understands the science, should use his executive powers as best he can, not just to reduce carbon emissions but also to prepare the country for confronting the environmental, political and military hazards of a warmer world. 

CFI's Triumvirate of Legal Awesomeness™ (Nick Little, Ron Lindsay, and Eddie Tabash) files an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on the big Hobby Lobby/contraceptive mandate case, telling the court that allowing a special religious exemptions for employers like Hobby Lobby violate the Constitution and place onerous burdens on workers. My favorite part of our press release:

“The burden on Hobby Lobby and these other companies is nonexistent,” said CFI’s legal director, attorney Nicholas Little. “Health care benefits are part of an employee’s compensation, so employers who object to employees’ use of health care benefits to obtain contraception are no more burdened than a Mormon employer whose workers use their salary to buy coffee.” 

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Unimpressive, Blurry, and Worthless

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 28, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

This is a must-read: Skeptical Inquirer editor Kendrick Frazier on why we skeptics do what we do:

[W]hat we science-minded skeptics are defending here goes way beyond any of the specific bizarre ideas, trumped-up mysteries, or misperceptions or misrepresentations of the real world we may critique. What we are defending ... are hard-won concepts essential to a free and open society—if that society is to have well-informed citizens capable of making wise decisions in a complex technological world.  

The Justice Department is apparently going to appeal a recent ruling against clergy's exemption from income taxes on their parsonages. Because hey, if they don't stand up for tax-free pastors' mansions, who will?

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A Veritable Museum of Mistakes

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 27, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

A must-read: Friend-of-the-blog Ali A. Rizvi corresponds with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar on their shared and differing experiences as atheist former-Muslims. One big theme: their belief that Western liberals are "selling out" liberals in the Muslim world. Writes Rizvi:

Western countries like the US barely use a fraction of the force they have the capacity to because whatever their flaws, they are still bound by a code of ethics -- and as democracies, accountability to their people. If the Taliban or Al Qaeda had even a tenth of the weaponry that the US does, you'd already have entire countries razed to the ground. I think many writers confuse neutrality with objectivity.

Tom Flynn is the guest on the Religious Studies Project podcast, unpacking what exactly it means to be a secular humanist. 

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