Blog Archives for January 2015

He Kept His Head

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 23, 2015

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

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is dead. Mainstream obituaries and condolences from world leaders are fairly warm and fuzzy about the absolute dictator of a medieval theocracy that subjugates women, and tortures and executes dissidents. But he was a "reformer," you see.

As President Obama said in a statement:

I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship. As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions.

Well, that he did. 

No Owls, Bats, or Moths

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 22, 2015

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

Amnesty International says Raif Badawi's second round of flogging may be postponed for medical reasons for the second time. The Guardian profiles Raif's wife Ensaf Haidar, and it's fairly heartbreaking, but boy is she an inspiring person.

Kevin Sullivan at WaPo looks at the big picture of Saudi Arabia's crackdown on human rights, and notes that the Saudis are "allies" in the West's fight against ISIS. Meanwhile, Adam Taylor, also at the Post, compares the legal punishments of Saudi Arabia with those of ISIS, and, well, you'd be forgiven for getting them mixed up.

“Selma”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 21, 2015

My wife Diana and I celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday by seeing the movie Selma. It brought back many memories of our civil rights work in the sixties. She was at the iconic March on Washington, and I marched with Dr. King in Frankfort, Kentucky. I also picketed the Lexington, Kentucky, federal building during the Selma crisis (along with several friends, including famed agrarian writer Wendell Berry), and I became a community organizer in Georgia. In 1968, in Atlanta, wearing a black armband, I stood in a long line and walked past Dr. King’s open casket following his assassination.

It’s a Small(pox) World After All

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 21, 2015

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

The Supreme Court unanimously decides that a Muslim prisoner may wear a beard, in violation of prison policy. Howard Friedman says the floodgates are now open:

The Supreme Court has now reaffirmed the conclusion of most courts that an inmate may invoke [the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act] to require accommodation of a totally idiosyncratic belief-- so long as it is sincerely held. Religious visions shared by no one else apparently still qualify. 

Thomas Friedman (no relation I assume) is irritated with the Obama administration's dancing around the "Islamic" part of "Islamic extremism":

I am all for restraint on the issue, and would never hold every Muslim accountable for the acts of a few. But it is not good for us or the Muslim world to pretend that this spreading jihadist violence isn’t coming out of their faith community.  

1 Comment

Like a Diamond in the Sky

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 20, 2015

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

The decibel level of the demands for Saudi Arabia to cease its punishment of Raif Badawi is getting much louder (and to think we were struggling to get anyone to care just a few weeks ago). 18 Nobel laureates appeal to their peers in Saudi Arabia to speak out, and eight U.S. Senators wrote to King Abdullah. At the end of last week, Raif's punishment was postponed, and his case was put up "for review" by the Saudi Supreme Court. I told Iain Thomson at The Register:

It's hard to believe that they would have referred the case for any reason other than responding to the sudden international pressure over the case. ... The attention is there, that's great, but pressure needs to be more forceful. 

William Lane Craig and ruling out an evil God by observation

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 18, 2015

Here is a post for the philosophers of religion amongst you. Can we rule out an evil god or creator on the grounds that the world is not nearly good enough? Of course we can. But then why can't we similarly rule out a good god on the grounds that the world isn't nearly evil enough?

14 Comments

Podcast of me discussing ‘Does Humanism Need God?” with Angus Ritchie is now available

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 17, 2015

Atheists 'saw off the branch on which Humanism sits', argue the authors of a report by Theos, Britain's leading religious think tank. The Case for Christian Humanism argues we atheist humanists should be Christians.

Podcast of me discussing this report with author Angus Ritchie now available on itunes: Unbelievable? (Premier Christian Radio) 'Does Humanism Need God?' presented by Justin Brierley. It will also be up here later today.

THEOS respond directly to my post below here.

2 Comments

Scholars the World Over, Abandon Your Studies!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 16, 2015

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

It's Religious Freedom Day.

The second round of floggings for Raif Badawi were to take place today, but due to his medical condition, it is reported that the next lashings have been postponed so he can heal from the first lashings. Ali Rizvi goes on CNN to lend his personal perspective to the story. 

This footage of press speaking to a State Department representative about this is not encouraging, as she asserts, "We're not in the business of demanding things." But she does support your right to make a snowman, so there's that.

5 Comments

Pope Francis: About Your Mother

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
January 15, 2015

Pope Francis has given his opinion on the controversy surrounding Charlie Hebdo's continued sharp criticism and sarcasm regarding religious beliefs. The pope has stated that there should be limits to free expression. In particular, one should not "insult the faith of others." He analogized criticism of religious beliefs to someone cursing his mother, saying that such a person "can expect a punch."

Pope Francis is wrong.

7 Comments

Free Speech Absolutism: “Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant”

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
January 15, 2015

The proper tool to fight offensive speech is better speech, and we must resist the temptation to rein in speech with which we disagree or take offense because the tools we employ can be used to censor free inquiry in ways we might not anticipate.

5 Comments

And I’ll Form the Head

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 15, 2015

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

Like a skepto-humanist Voltron, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism have officially merged with CFI to form one, unified Center for Inquiry. No longer three corporations, Devastator-like we have assembled into a single gestalt beast, one single organization. And I'll form the head. (No I won't.)

Right-wing media "watchdog" group NewsBusters unloads its clumsy snark on us for our statement to the media asking that climate change deniers not be referred to as skeptics...

Terrorism

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 14, 2015

 

Nobody Photoshops Angela

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 14, 2015

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

Several outlets are publishing Charlie Hebdo's latest cover image, including us ('cause that's how we roll) and the Washington Post. The New York Times didn't, but their public editor says they should have:

The new cover image of Charlie Hebdo is an important part of a story that has gripped the world’s attention over the past week. The cartoon itself, while it may disturb the sensibilities of a small percentage of Times readers, is neither shocking nor gratuitously offensive. And it has, undoubtedly, significant news value. 

14 Smart Questions for Caricaturist Celestia Ward

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
January 13, 2015

In 2014 I attended a caricature conference in Reno, Nevada. Among a ballroom full of ridiculously talented artists from around the world I happened to meet Celestia Ward, a caricaturist who’s also a skeptic. Naturally, I had questions for her. 

Cretinous Representative

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 13, 2015

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

It's Raif Badawi's birthday. I can't imagine this is how he'd like to spend it. To remind him, and the world, that he's not forgotten, we're sending this image around the inter-social-twit-book-net.

Charlie Hebdo shows off the cover of its next issue, which will have a print run of about 3 million, and yes, it's got the prophet.

On Point of Inquiry this week, Josh Zepps talks to Jytte Klausen, the woman who literally wrote the book on the infamous "Danish cartoons," but who wasn't allowed to actually show the cartoons in her book. (This is also the episode where Josh coins the term "OPEC of Freedom.")

1 Comment

Je Suis Charlie

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 12, 2015

(on the terroristic assassination of journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, Paris, 1-7-15)

The Radical Unity of Narratives

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 12, 2015

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

As I talked about in the Heresy last week, Saudi Arabia carried out the first 50 of its 1000 lashes on Raif Badawi on Friday. Condemnations came from such voices as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the European Union, the Washington Post, and countless others. Our own Michael De Dora discovered this footage which seems to be of the event itself, from someone obviously trying to hide the fact that they were recording it.

4 Comments

Charlie Hebdo and avoiding offence - two popular liberal arguments refuted

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 10, 2015

In the gallery of satirical art there’s a largely blank space where the work satirizing Islam should be. Here I argue that, where satirical work has been removed out of fear, it should be put back. I also deal with a couple of objections against doing so.

15 Comments

He Did Not Flinch

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 09, 2015

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

As I type, the alleged perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack have taken hostages in Paris.

CFI's Michael De Dora was on Ed Schultz's show on MSNBC last night discussing the free expression implications of the attack. Our boss Ron Lindsay gave a long interview on the same subject to Evan Dawson on WXXI's Connections radio show, as well as appearing on WBFO radio.

1 Comment

What’s the point of lampooning religion? To upset the religious?

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 08, 2015

In the wake of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, attention is focussed on the causing of offence to religious people. Is that the point of lampooning religion? Is causing offence to Muslims the aim of someone who draws a cartoon of Mohammad? No, usually it's not (though this point is usually lost on the offended).

26 Comments

Insult the Hell Out of Me

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 08, 2015

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

US News spoke to Ron Lindsay about the attack on Charlie Hebdo yesterday, as did the Kingkade and Breakenridge radio show, which you can find here, picking January 7 and 10am from the menu. The Los Angeles News Group's syndicated editorial mentions Free Inquiry's willingness to run the "Danish cartoons." Our response was also covered in Variety, of all places.

The magazine itself, Charlie Hebdowill publish next week. “We are all suffering, with grief, with fear, but we will do it anyway because stupidity will not win.” 

Censorship and Free Speech: Did Sony Really Cancel The Interview?

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
January 07, 2015

With the horrific massacre at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo yesterday—apparently by Muslim fundamentalists upset by the magazine’s satires of Mohammed—the subject of censorship and freedom of speech is everywhere. This is the second time in two months that free speech has been threatened by terrorism. Or is it?  

I Am Charlie

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 07, 2015

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

French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo is attacked by gun-wielding terrorists, allegedly offended by cartoons mocking ISIS, and 12 are reported dead. CFI stands is absolute solidarity with the people of Charlie HebdoHere is our official statement, which reads in part:

As publishers of Free Inquiry, the first (and for some time, the only) U.S. publication willing to publish the cartoons of Muhammad that sparked riots in 2005 after they appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, we stand in resolute solidarity with the people of Charlie Hebdo, and all those writers, thinkers, and satirists who know that no idea or individual ought to be immune from criticism, and have the courage to point out the flaws and fallacies of even the most deeply-held beliefs.

1 Comment

A Syringe Full of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 06, 2015

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

You know, I thought a lot of 2015 would be dull until the presidential primary clown show got started, but I feel like today I've been given a little gift: Louie Gohmert is running for Speaker of the House. Sam Brodey at Mother Jones rounds up some of the crazy things he believes, including the equation of gays and Nazis, that Sandy Hook might have been a hoax, and the best: "terror babies." 

Pregnant in the U.S.? Side effects may include vomiting, loss of autonomy, and incarceration. (Hat tip to Nora for that one.) On Point of InquiryLindsay Beyerstein interviews activist Lynn Paltrow on the fight for reproductive justice.  

God the Father vs. the Godfather

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 05, 2015

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

Kimberly Winston interviews Phil Zuckerman about his new book and his ideas about nonreligious "aweism," in a piece that also has response from our own Tom Flynn from a piece inFree Inquiry

Tom also declares the biggest untold church-state story of 2014 to be the Vatican's involvement in U.S.-Cuba relations

Would you like a chance to change American culture by introducing the country to a non-jerky atheist fictional TV character? Here's your chance with a contest sponsored by CFI and FFRF.

CFI Libraries Announce the Martin T. Orne Collection

Access Points with Timothy Binga
January 02, 2015

The Center for Inquiry Libraries (CFI Libraries) have acquired the collection of materials of Dr. Martin T. Orne (1927-2000), the eminent professor of psychiatry and psychology. Included in the Martin T. Orne, MD, PhD Collection are books, dissertations, audio-visual materials, as well as legal case files and correspondence files relating to Dr. Orne’s work in hypnosis, memory distortion (false memories), and lie detection.

“The Imitation Game”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 02, 2015

In case the name isn’t familiar, the central figure of The Imitation Game, Alan Turing, was a clandestine codebreaking hero of World War II. He went on to work at Britain’s National Physical Laboratory, where he created one of the first designs for the ACE, a stored-program computer, and he is now widely considered the father of the modern computer as well as a pioneer in artificial intelligence.

The Top Church-State Un-Story of 2014

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
January 02, 2015

What's the top church-state un-story of 2014? I'd have to nominate the close cooperation between the United States and the Holy See in the diplomatic negotiations that led to the change of U. S. policy toward Cuba. The pope is the head of a church; he is a head of state only by dint of a huge and archaic legal fiction. For the White House to work that closely with a single church on a geopolitical issue violates the separation of church and state in the most literal way imaginable, and I'm amazed that none of the usual church-state watchdogs raised an objection to it.

Meet the New Year, Same as the Old Year

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 02, 2015

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

It's 2015, and wow, everything feels different! A universe of fresh possibility! It's a whole new plane of existence! It's...nah, I'm just kidding. Everything is the same. Happy New Year anyway.

Snopes rounds up the 25 most widely-circulated urban legends of 2014. It's amazing how many of them have to do with body parts and fluids of various species.  

The Monterey Herald covers SkeptiCamp, with a nod to CFI-Los Angeles, Skeptical Inquirer, and the Independent Investigations Group.