Hoaxes

Access Points with Timothy Binga
March 31, 2014

Another April 1 is upon us, and, as always, someone will try to prank, fool, or hoax us. The media usually tries to hoax us in some way at this time of year, and one of our specialties here at CFI is to examine these types of things. From the War of the Worlds radio broadcast to the Cardiff Giant to the Piltdown Hoax, we have accounts of many hoaxes in our libraries.

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The Embarrassment of Noah

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
March 31, 2014

One of the persistent criticisms of the so-called New Atheists—Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, et al.—is that many of their arguments, although directed against religious belief in general, are really relevant only for fundamentalists. Sure, if you interpret the Bible literally, God comes across as a homicidal, genocidal, misogynistic monster, but this crude understanding of scripture is held only by ignorant believers, who, at most, constitute a substantial minority of the faithful.  Therefore, the New Atheists present a distorted view of religion and show little understanding of the mindset of “moderate” religionists.  The moderate religionists do not believe the Bible provides us with a literally true history of ancient times, nor do they regard the Bible, in particular the Old Testament, as providing an accurate conception of God and God’s relationship to humanity. 

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The Vatican Caught Out

by Bill Cooke
March 31, 2014

For many years the Vatican has presumed for itself the status of a nation-state. It’s not, of course, but that doesn’t stop it making the claim. As the British lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has made clear, the Vatican is not, and cannot be a state. It lacks all the necessities of a sovereign state.  With this in mind, the Vatican’s attempt in 2002 to gain full member status of the United Nations was turned down. As a sop to ruffled feathers, the UN spoke of it enjoying “permanent observer status.”

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Charles Darwin, Skeptic

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
March 31, 2014

Charles Darwin was much more than just a scientist and author; he was also a devoted family man and an explorer. Steeped in the ways of science, he was also a skeptic who demanded good evidence for extraordinary claims.

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Edwin Kagin: 1940-2014

by Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
March 31, 2014

Edwin Kagin, American Atheists' national legal director and a founder of Camp Quest, has died at the age of 73. Tom Flynn, Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of Free Inquiry, shares these thoughts on behalf of the Center for Inquiry:

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To call Edwin Kagin bombastic or colorful is to concede the inadequacy of language...

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Almost Literally Hungry for Brains

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

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

Barbara Ehrenreich (who will be at Women in Secularism III) wants you to know she's still totally an atheist, despite her new memoir that includes childhood experiences "way out of the reach of science."   

James Hansen, the man who really put the crisis of global warming on the national radar, says civilization itself is screwed if Canada taps into its tar sands for oil.

Massimo Polidoro at Skeptical Inquirer tells how hucksters easily manipulate vulnerable people with belief in the power of the "evil eye." 

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Smiling Joe Has His Own Celestial Body

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

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

Hey, folks, I was rather ill yesterday with something called "influenza," and I'm frankly not feeling much better today, but I couldn't let skepto-atheism writhe in painful, linkless ignorance for another day, so here's a two-day catchup of the Heresy. You are so welcome. 

George Ongere of CFI-Kenya writes at the CFI blog about his own embrace of social justice through humanism, and the fantastic work being done on the ground.

In Pakistan, Sawan Masih is sentenced to death for blasphemy, for allegedly insulting Mohammed. It's all so awful. From the Reuters report by Mubasher Bukhari:

The law does not require evidence to be presented in court and there are no penalties for false allegations. Courts often hesitate to hear evidence, fearful that reproducing it will also be considered blasphemous. Activists who want to reform the law say it is often abused by those seeking to grab money or property from the accused. 

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A Brief Look at Phrenology

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
March 26, 2014

Phrenology is a form of character reading (like graphology and physiognomy) as supposedly revealed by the individual contours of the subject’s head. The term was introduced in 1815 to refer to a “physiognomical system” of two German doctors, Franz Joseph Gall and John Spurzheim, who gave phrenological readings and lectured on the subject in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Phrenology flourished during the latter century due to the publishing and merchandizing efforts of the Fowler brothers, Orson S. and Lorenzo N., together with their brother-in-law, Samuel R. Wells. The company, Fowler & Wells, was headquartered in New York City with a branch in Philadelphia.

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Using Humanism to Help the Less Fortunate in Africa

by Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
March 26, 2014

This is a special guest post by George Ongere of CFI-Kenya

When I first embraced a humanistic life stance, I believed that it was only a personal matter and that it would not compel me to trouble myself to engage in activities of social justice. Most people who have embraced a secular life stance, and mostly atheists, believe that having abandoned religion, and then trying to involve themselves with activities like helping the poor, assisting orphans and helping homeless widows, is like trying to mimic religion. Hence when one abandons the belief in God, gods, Satan, etc., it does not compel them to be involved in matters of social justice. However, secular humanism allows one to adhere to certain kinds of principles, and as such, going to the extent of working for social justice is not a problem with those who embrace secular humanism.

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We Make Gods of Ourselves

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
March 26, 2014

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

The Hobby Lobby case has now been argued before the justices of the Supreme Court (see our primer on the case here), and our boss Ron Lindsay saw it all go down. His take? A little grim:

[Hobby Lobby] wants the protections granted to religious beliefs while also carrying out for-profit commercial activity with the legal advantages granted to corporations. Sadly, a majority of the Court appears prepared to accept Hobby Lobby’s claim, and with it a radical restructuring of the relationship between religion and government. 

Adam Liptak at the Times agrees that the justices seemed to favor Hobby Lobby's argument.

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