Blog Archives for December 2012

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.

29 Comments

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.    

4 Comments

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.

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!

The Top 10 Science And Reason Books of 2012

Guest Blog from 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. 

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!)

4 Comments

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 Ben 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.

3 Comments

Shutterstock’s Intelligent Design

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 20, 2012

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

Yeah, yeah, Mayan Apocalypse tomorrow, we're all gonna die, ha ha ha, let's move on

Alber Saber gives an interview to the AP:

"Egypt is a religious state," said Saber. "If you disobey the norms, you get judged and sentenced. I'm not a criminal, but I'm being judged and sentenced on my opinion." 

Yes, yes, that President What's-his-name is Time's Person of the Year, as it always is for a newly elected or reelected president. Like, every time. But two runners-up are notable for Heresy readers.

First runner-up, "Malala Yousafzai, the Fighter." Second runner-up is the pope of my particular religion, Apple CEO Tim Cook ("the Technologist"), and, again for my heretics, the third runner-up is Higgs boson scientist, "Fabiola Gianotti, the Discoverer."  

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It is a Very Dark Creed We Preach

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 19, 2012

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

I know he's my boss, and this will seem all sycophantic, but Ron Lindsay nails it with his take on the appropriate atheist response to religious invocations during this post-Newtown grief process, and how religious folks should remember to keep their atheist neighbors in mind during the same.

Anti-Claus Tom Flynn still thinks Christmas should be a normal work day, but this Christmas he will not be at his desk. Why? His love for his wife and a good deal. 

The President’s Remarks and the Grief of Atheists

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
December 18, 2012

President Obama gave a moving speech at the Newtown memorial service Sunday night. His remarks contained several explicitly religious references. I don’t care.

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A Personal Note About Dec. 25th

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
December 18, 2012

Some folks -- from humanist/atheist activists to folks in the media -- have made it a tradition to phone me at the office on December 25 whenever that date falls during the work week. Some call to wish me "Happy just another day," some just to make sure I'm there. Well, I won't  be there this year, and I figured I'd better explain why. (Spoiler alert: It's not because I've succumbed to the lures of a certain holiday beloved for different reasons by many Christians and some neo-pagans.

25 Comments

200 Pills for Google

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 18, 2012

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

Pew has another big survey, and this time they tell us that one in six human beings on Earth, 1.1 billion people, are "Nones." Of course, 700 million of those are in China.

Alber Saber released on bail

Hey! Dude! What are you doing Friday?? Oh yeah? Well instead of that (lame), why don't you head over to CFI's headquarters in Amherst, NY (The Fortress of Skeptitude?) and take part in a Winter Solstice party and clothing drive

Biblical Revisionism

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
December 17, 2012

The following is from The Bible According to the Most Modern Apologists for Religion—an as yet unpublished text.

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There is Nothing to Understand

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 17, 2012

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

My blogger's instinct this morning was to complain about the inconveniences of my weekend. Our move to a new house, the snow, the raging toddler, etc. But it was as we were boxing up the last bits of our old apartment that we read the news of the massacre at Newtown. Now, every time I have something I want to grouse about (and I feel very, very grousey), my mind flashes to the lost children and the devastated families, and how no matter how many things my 3-year-old breaks or how often he melts down, I'm so incredibly grateful that he and his baby sister are healthy and happy and here.

Anyway, welcome to the new work-week, everybody. I'm glad you're here, and I'm glad you're, you know, here

Can Religion Provide Answers in Time of Tragedy?

Freethought from the Heartland with Reba Boyd Wooden
December 15, 2012

As the mother of two and grandmother of seven, I can identify with the parents and grandparents of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. My grandchildren are kindergarten, second grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, ninth grade, and twelfth grade. They are in five different schools. The two youngest are near the age of the children who were killed.

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Disgraceful Reactions to a Tragedy

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
December 14, 2012

Religious figures  Bryan Fischer and Mike Huckabee react to the deadly shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut by blaming separation of church and state.

5 Comments

The Interfaith Movement and Where Secular Folks Fit In

Guest Blog from Sarah Kaiser
December 13, 2012

Reading an article put out a few weeks ago by the Center for American Progress, I was surprised to learn statistics showing that Catholic universities have a higher percentage of Muslim students enrolled than does the average four-year institution in the United States.

To secularists, this data should be surprising. Why are religious minority students finding private Catholic institutions more welcoming than public secular ones? 

5 Comments

There is Nothing Anyone Can Do to Stop This

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 13, 2012

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

Egyptian atheist blogger and activist Alber Saber was convicted yesterday in a Cairo court of blasphemy, and sentenced to three years in prison. 

Human Rights Watch's Heba Morayef tells NYT:

The spike in prosecutions over the past year and a half was due to complaints being filed by Islamist lawyers on a decentralized basis, but the constitution does more than that, it makes it state policy. And the tragic thing is that I think there is nothing anyone can do to stop this from growing in the future. 

CFI touts the new IHEU report on the persecution of atheists around the world, to which we contributed significant research. Guess who's on the cover of that report.

What’s Wrong with HumanLight / the Winter Solstice?

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
December 13, 2012

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, has posted a blog endorsing HumanLight, a Winter Solstice observance invented a bit more than a decade ago by a local humanist group in New Jersey then led by the late Joe Fox. Perhaps that's an appropriate action for Roy, whose organization has a history of being friendlier toward religious humanists than the Council for Secular Humanism. But I couldn't resist leaving a secular humanist rejoinder as a comment to Roy's post. Here it is, below:

25 Comments

Happy Y2K12.95

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 12, 2012

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

As insidious as many folks find a confluence of numbers within a date, I think folks will feel much better about 12/12/12 knowing that it's National Sound Check Day ("one-two, one-two, one-two"). Could also be National 2/4 Time Signature Day. Anyway, CNN rounds up some of the superstitions surrounding today's date.

What Does Humanism Stand On?

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
December 11, 2012

If humanism is more than a lifestyle choice or a subjective preference, where could it base its principles?

1 Comment

Death for Free Speech is a Deal Breaker

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 11, 2012

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

Former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey, in an op-ed by Frank Bruni at NYT, declares himself an agnostic. Says Kerrey, “If you talk openly about your doubts,” he said, “you can get in trouble.”

Writes Bruni on the problem of religious entanglement in politics:

God’s initial absence from the Democratic Party platform last summer stirred more outrage among Americans than the slaughter in Syria will ever provoke. 

Wait. 31% identify as "nonreligious"? What?? 

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New Report Details Global Restrictions on Freedom of Belief and Expression

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
December 10, 2012

In recognition of Human Rights Day, the International Humanist and Ethical Union has released a report -- produced in collaboration with the Center for Inquiry, American Humanist Association, Secular Coalition for America, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason -- that details laws around the world which restrict the rights to freedom of belief and expression, and instances of nonreligious persons facing discrimination and persecution.

A Fetish, an Amulet, a Pack of Tarot Cards

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 10, 2012

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

A major new report has been released by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and made with the help of us at CFI, on instances of atheist/nonreligious discrimination and persecution around the world. Coverage from Reuters. Billy Hallowell at The Blaze is even moved to write:

Considering [IHEU's] scope — to advance the cause of non-belief — there is clearly a bias in the preparation and publication of the report. However, many  of the findings are compelling.

Hemant's reaction: "Read it and weep."

3 Comments

‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’s’  Macabre Mistake

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
December 08, 2012

A 'Ripley's Believe It or Not' factoid read, "You are more likely to die on your birthday then any other day of the year." Well, yes and no.

15 Comments

He Currently Follows Only Himself

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 07, 2012

 

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

The LDS church decides to sort-of embrace LGBT folks, conceding that, while sinful to act upon, homosexuality is not a choice. 

CFI's Michael De Dora is a guest on Jamila Bey's radio program discussing the new laws surrounding "gay conversion therapy." 

Michael also touts a meeting that took place in October, the first time secular groups got a private meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Oh yeah, we were there. 

Susan Jacoby gives longform props to Robert Ingersoll in a really great piece for American Scholar

 

Secularists Break New Ground at United Nations

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
December 06, 2012

In late October, a delegation representing the secular advocacy groups International Humanist and Ethical Union and Center for Inquiry had a first-of-its-kind meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief on discrimination against freethinkers around the world.  

Celebrating Milbourne Christopher

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
December 06, 2012

My good friend William V. Rauscher—magician, Episcopal priest, psychical researcher, and author—has produced yet another excellent book—a long-overdue tribute to American magician Milbourne Christopher. I especially welcome it, because Christopher was one of the greatest influences on my early career as a magician turned paranormal investigator.

Weather Elements are Controlled Maybe by Different Things

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 06, 2012

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

And lo, the CFI board of directors did in this blessed time elect Edward Tabash to be its chairman, and yea, it was then joined by new board member Judith Walker, and there was much rejoicing and feasting.

Reba Boyd Wooden, chief of CFI-Indiana, talks about the motives behind our lawsuit for equality in solemnizing marriages:

True, atheists/Secular Humanists, etc. generally see less need for ritual than religious people. However, we feel that we should be able to offer it to those who do. 

Why is CFI Challenging the Indiana Statute Which Specifies Who Can Solemnize Marriages?

Freethought from the Heartland with Reba Boyd Wooden
December 05, 2012

Why is CFI challenging the Indiana statute which specifies who can solemnize marriages? The most important reason for bringing this case is that it has wider implications. It, in the big picture, is standing up for equal rights for nonbelievers. It is not just about who can solemnize a marriage.

Richard Dawkins explains the Irrationality behind Miracles

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
December 05, 2012

An amusing talk by Dawkins that illustrates how seemingly amazing coincidences are just meaningless events.

69% of Americans Would Hate This Blog

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 05, 2012

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

Ron Lindsay joined a great panel discussion at HuffPost Live on the question of how God can be "perfect" and allow for so much suffering. Definitely check it out

New Gallup uber-survey says 69% of Americans are moderately or very religious, happens to coincide with publication of new book by Gallup's Frank Newport, God is Alive and Well, which seems more than a little hung up on contradicting the New Atheists. David Sessions at Daily Beast says this data means that secularization is being exaggerated.

2 Comments

In Science, Whose Department is the Ethics Department?: Part 2

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
December 04, 2012

What is the role of ethics in science? Part 2 of 2.

Don’t Fetch Coffee for the Devil

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 04, 2012

As we told you yesterday, CFI has had its Indiana case, which challenged the religious privilege in the solemnizing of marriages, dismissed. Well, folks noticed.

Indianapolis Star talks to CFI-Indiana's Reba Boyd Wooden about the case. Indiana Lawyer talks to me.

Also, AP and Indiana Public Radio

Reba posted a comment to yesterday's Heresy that I think bears re-airing . . . 

Three Significant Developments for the Right to Freedom of Expression

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
December 03, 2012

The month of November included three significant and positive developments regarding the right to freedom of expression, which recently has come under such harsh attack that the Center for Inquiry has launched a Campaign for Free Expression


Flynn December Talks Target the South

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
December 03, 2012

Look out, Dixie, Council for Secular Humanism executive director Tom Flynn (i. e., yours truly) will do a lecture tour across the South just in time for some people's favorite holiday, December 7 - 10. I'll be speaking on church-state separation in Chattanooga and Tuscaloosa, and delivering my barn-burning illustrated talk "The Trouble with Christmas" in Knoxville and Atlanta.

You Can ‘Opt Out’ of My Covenant

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 03, 2012

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

This is why the Heresy is late today. It's bad news: An Indiana court has dismissed CFI's lawsuit challenging its prohibition against the solemnization of marriages by secular celebrants. CFI boss Ron Lindsay:

According to the court, what is a required accommodation for the religious, is just a matter of convenience for the nonreligious. It would be difficult to imagine a clearer way to classify nonbelievers as second-class citizens. . . . A wedding is one of the most important ceremonies in a person’s life, and it is just as meaningful to atheists as it is to theists. It’s disappointing that a 21st-century court refused to recognize this reality.

CFI plans to appeal. Early reaction to the decision from Hemant

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