A Jaunt around the Sun

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 31, 2012

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

I hope you enjoyed this last jaunt around the Sun. The neat thing is that there's really no "start" to Earth's orbit, so any day can be New Year's Day. If you like, you can at any moment say, "This is the beginning of my new year." You don't have to go by the Gregorian calendar. 

Of course, if you don't, you'll be late for all kinds of stuff and miss appointments. But it's your new year!

Anyway. 

1) NYT publishes a feature piece on how humanists are "absent" from times of great grief and crisis such as the Newtown atrocity. Read that.

2) Our own Tom Flynn responds in a blog post/letter to the editor, challenging assertions by the author and those quoted in the piece. Read that.

3) People comment on Tom's post, Tom comments back, etc. Read those, too. Good stuff! 

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Responding to a Slam in the New York Times

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
December 29, 2012

It's Saturday, and each Saturday brings a new religion feature story in the New York Times. This week's installment is by Samuel G. Freedman, with the lurid headline "In a Crisis, Humanists Seem Absent." It concerns a phenomenon widely noted within the nontheist community, as well -- the fact that despite the great increase in atheism's social prominence, freethinkers were largely unheard from in the social response to the Newtown massacre. In fairness, Freedman's analysis was more even-handed than his essay's headline would suggest. He recognized that unbelievers were as much shut out of "interfaith" outpourings as they failed to step up. But does it make sense to say that there's any sense in which the nonreligious actually "failed to step up"? Greg Epstein thinks so. He is Harvard's humanist chaplain and, for all intents and purposes, the current "pope" of the religious-humanist camp. He told Freedman, "we need to provide an alternative form of community if we're going to matter for the increasing number of people who say they are not believers." But I'm not convinced. Truly secular people, precisely insofar as they are secular, have outgrown the need to seek emotional support primarily from a group that has been twice segregated to resemble them: segregated once by adjacent residence, and segregated again by worldview. That's what a traditional church congregation is, after all: a community of people who live in the same area and see the world in about the same way. Secular humanists tend not to seek that parochial sort of support. That's a distinctive characteristic of their approach to life, not a shortcoming. Colloquially, it's a feature, not a bug. I wrote a letter to the New York Times making this point. Since I'm more likely to be struck by lightning twice while marrying a terrorist than to see my letter published, I reproduce it below.

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Ill Communication

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 28, 2012

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

The Morning Heretic is ill today. Not in the Beastie Boys sense, but in the infection-by-microbe sense. But because I am so devoted to you, the reader, that I dragged by aching, coughing, overdramatic carcass to my office and honored my commitment to rounding up a bunch of links that, let's face it, you could have googled for yourself. Think nothing of it! 

Looking to protest the Church's stance on gay marriage, many Dutch look to a website for help in being de-baptized

An Italian priest, Father Piero Corsi, blames women who are the victims of domestic abuse for bringing violence on themselves for neglecting housework and the like.    

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A History of Disbelief

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
December 27, 2012

Jonathan Miller's 2004 documentary is still the best survey of atheism's history.

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Very Like a Higgs

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 27, 2012

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

CFI's boss Ron Lindsay and public policy director Michael De Dora are the guests on this week's Point of Inquiry"Mr. Science Goes to Washington." Who came up with that??

Point of Inquiry posts its top-ten science and reason books from the show's 2012 guests. 

Ray "Banana Man" Comfort debates with CFI-LA director Jim Underdown on the subject of God, justice, and reasons for existing. Over coffee!

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The Top 10 Science And Reason Books of 2012

by Point of Inquiry
December 26, 2012

Every year, Point of Inquiry invites scores of great authors on the air as guests. So as 2012 draws to a close, we thought we'd compile a list for you of some of the best recent books by authors featured on the show this year. 

Below, you'll find a link to the book, a brief write-up, and a link to our interview with the author. If you somehow missed out on these titles (or these interviews), now's the time to catch up!

—Chris Mooney & Indre Viskontas

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God Dropped the Ball

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 26, 2012

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

Here's a nice gift for the season for you: After a harrowing medical scare concerning his heart, Ed Brayton gets back up. Show him some love.

The Economist goes to Hell. And by that I mean they have a cover feature this week on The Bad Place:

Religion thrives on fear, as well as hope: without fear, bad behaviour has no sanction and clerical authority wins scant respect. 

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SKEPTICAL INQUIRER Article Strikes Hammer Blow Against Strategies to Shield Dogma

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
December 23, 2012

Pardon me while I blow the horn for FREE INQUIRY's sister zine. The January/February SKEPTICAL INQUIRER contains an article that just may strike the definitive blow against those who, by appeal to righteous indignation or sanctity, would shield heinous cultural practices or religious dogmas against any comment or criticism. (SI doesn't post articles from an issue until the next issue comes out, so "bad news," you'll just have to lay your hands on a physical copy!)

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We Are Becoming Billionaires of Energy

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 21, 2012

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

So it's the big day, and so far, no rogue planets have smashed into Earth, and everything is just as wonderful, just as crappy, just as inspiring, and just as discouraging as it ever was. Some folks are no doubt disappointed, some relieved, some bemused. But I'll bet there's some of you who saw the arrival of today and were just a tiny bit spooked that maybe, juuuust maybe, that crazy Mayan Apocalypse thing was true. I mean, not me, of course. 

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A Skeptic’s Brief Conversation With a TV Producer

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
December 20, 2012

A brief recounting of what happens when the goals and demands of skepticism collide with the goals and demands of TV production.

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