Reality Distortion Field of Dreams

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
August 21, 2013

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

CFI files an amicus brief in the Massachusetts case about the Pledge of Allegiance, and it's not the usual "violates the First Amendment" argument. 

Coptic Christians face a wave of violence in Egypt at the hands of Morsi-supporting Islamists.

The American Muslim Political Action Committee will hold a mass demonstration in Washington on September 11 to protest "religious profiling."

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One of the Most Wonderful Soldiers of Rationalism

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
August 20, 2013

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

I'm sorry to open the Heresy with some grisly news from India. Here's the IHEU:

It is with deep shock and sadness that we report the assassination this morning (Tuesday, 20 August) of one of India's most renowned rationalist and Humanist leaders, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar.

He was reportedly shot four times by two men on a motorbike this morning on Omkarweshwar bridge in Pune, Maharashtra state. He was reportedly taking his daily morning walk when he was assassinated, a route that may have been known to his attackers.

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Double Stuf Conspiracy

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
August 19, 2013

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

Brian Regal in NJ's Star-Ledger looks at the very non-supernatural roots of the Jersey Devil legend:

The Leeds family does occupy the center of the story, but they were not stereotyped, superstitious rural people. They were politically active religious pioneers, authors and publishers. We have forgotten that the Jersey Devil legend — originally the Leeds Devil — began as a cruel taunt against them, not because of a monstrous birth, but because they had the cultural misfortune of joining the wrong side. 

(I'm from this area, and as a kid, my grandfather delighted in successfully scaring the crap out of me with tales of the Jersey Devil.)

The Baltimore Sun covers pet psychics, and gets badly-needed perspective from our own Joe Nickell.

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Special Stomach Virus Edition

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
August 16, 2013

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

So yesterday there was no Heresy because I was looking after my sick baby daughter. Well, the Heresy is late today because she was kind enough to lend me her stomach virus. The adventure continues. 

Now how cool is this? CFI On Campus does its first On-Air Session with campus leaders from across the country. Session 1 is on gearing up for the new school year. 

And there's lots more from On Campus. Karyn Spory at the Columbia Tribune highlights CFI On Campus affiliate MU SASHA for its recent Free Expression award from CFI.   

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“Human Torch” Baby: SHC or Abuse?

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 15, 2013

According to news reports (e.g., timesofindia.india-times.com, August 13, 2013), a baby boy from a village in Tamil Nadu, India, “caught fire” on four occasions. Since so many incidents were unlikely to be accidents, some persons were suggesting the case might be one of “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC). I received a request to “please help this child” from a young Indian man (who sent me the link to the story) and also a request for an interview by a reporter from MSN.com, Dustin Seibert. I told the latter I was concerned about the child’s safety—though not from SHC. (Interview online at news.msn.com/rumors/rumor-baby-suffer-from-spontaneous-combustion; August 14, 2013.)

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Ban on “Pulpit Politicking” Protects Taxpayers, Religious Believers

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
August 14, 2013

Religious leaders today released a new report that calls for an end to the ban on tax-exempt organizations, such as houses of worship and nonprofit groups, engaging in partisan political activities. But, despite what its opponents claim, the ban is based on sound reasoning.

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Get a Pope (Sha Na-Na Na, Sha Na-Na Na-Na)

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
August 14, 2013

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

NPR's Mile Johnson tells the story of civil rights activist William Lewis Moore, believed to be an atheist, who was killed 50 years ago on a long walk to deliver a letter to Mississippi's governor. 

At Friendly Atheist, I discover a rare example of sound advice for Christian-atheist child-raising.

Wait wait wait. The science textbooks in Texas are...okay?

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Proof of Rat Heaven

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
August 13, 2013

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

University of Michigan scientists poke around some rat brains for EEG signals, and found a huge burst of activity just at the point of death. Proof of Rat Heaven? The opposite.

USA Today comes out against businesses claiming exemptions from Obamacare's contraceptive mandate:

Ultimately, the issue is one of balance. The effect of health insurance on business owners is indirect. Employees may or may not use insurance to pay for birth control, just as they may or may not use their salary to pay for something that would violate the company owners' faith.

The circumstance might be discomforting. But the alternative — granting religious exemptions to private organizations — is more troubling. It would be open to abuse, putting the government in the position of determining which business owners were sufficiently religious. 

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What I Wrote To Scientific American

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
August 12, 2013

On August 8, I wrote to the relevant editors at Scientific American after Dr. Karen Stollznow posted her blog piece about sexual harassment. I did so because Dr. Stollznow’s piece contained several inaccuracies, which were repeated in blogs and then showed up in letters to me. These inaccuracies are damaging to the reputation of the Center for Inquiry, an organization to which I have a fiduciary obligation. I asked Scientific American to issue an apology and make three specific corrections. I did not ask for the post to be removed. In my view, it would have been preferable if it had remained posted, but with the corrections. Scientific American decided otherwise. My email to Scientific American appears below.

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Dr. Porter and His Healing Oil

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 12, 2013

In doing some research (for my “Historical Sketches” column in my hometown newspaper) I unexpectedly came across a mid-1920s photo showing small tin signs for “Dr. Porter’s Healing Oil” affixed to the front of a store warehouse. I wondered: just who was Dr. Porter, and what was the story behind his medicinal product?

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