Blog Archives for February 2013

Goodbye to an Evil Pope

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
February 28, 2013

We won't miss the Pope who used moral relativism to justify moral depravity. 

4 Comments

Melrose Pope (Or, Pope Opera)

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 28, 2013

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

A lot of local activism in the news today:

We have the public outing of South Jersey atheist activist Michael Cluff who was going to avow his nonbelief before a prayerful town council meeting, but was thwarted. 

Relatedly, a court in Kentucky defies the protests of a local atheist and reinstates prayers

And Lindsey Brackin is the lone person at a public meeting over the infamous Kountze High School religious banners to speak up for church-state separation. 

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The Neurons in the Corpus Credulous

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 26, 2013

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

Robert Evans at Reuters reports that the Human Rights Council at the UN gets a report from IHEU (collaborating with CFI) on the persecution of atheists around the world, and the criminalization of blasphemy.

University of Michigan student Monica Harmsen writes at the On Campus blog about how important the Women in Secularism conferences are to her:

I returned to my student group with a renewed passion for the Movement. I was keenly aware that there was so much left to do in order to make this country and this world a better place for nonbelievers, especially nonbelieving women and minorities. I wanted to become the kind of student leader who would make proud the secular women who came before me. I wanted to become the kind of activist who would help create a better world for the secular women to come. 

That’s Unfair to Snake Oil Salesmen

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 25, 2013

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

Yowza. Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland resigned today in the midst of allegations of sexual advances on priests.

Good stuff: Harriet Hall and Amy Davis Roth begin the healing

Bad stuff: Egyptian author of The Arabic Theology, Youssef Zeidan, may be charged with blasphemy for his book.

Christian pastor in Pakistan, Asghar Nizam Ranjha, is accused of blasphemy for allegedly defiling a Bible...

Indiana General Assembly Declares War on Public Education and Women

Freethought from the Heartland with Reba Boyd Wooden
February 23, 2013

Under the guise of protecting women's health and providing better education for children, the Indiana General Assembly is waging a war against public education and women.

5 Comments

Bleeding Grapefruits

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 22, 2013

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

International human rights experts present "a plan of action to prevent incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence" in regard to "national, racial and religious hatred." Yes, CFI will be looking very closely at this.

We know you love smart, science-and-secularism podcasts. You should tell the world by donning the new Point of Inquiry T-shirt. It might help if you make this face, as modeled by CFI's own Sarah Kaiser.

CFI yesterday trumpeted our inclusion in the Respect for Marriage coalition, dedicated to the repeal of DOMA and in support of marriage equality. 

Return of “Spontaneous Human Combustion”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 21, 2013

Here we go again! In 2011 it was an elderly Irishman who allegedly perished by “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC). Now it is an elderly Oklahoman—according to the Sequoyah County sheriff—who supposedly died by SHC.

Armchair Apocalyptists and Newspaper Exegetes

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

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

Just posted yesterday (we're really excited about this): Point of Inquiry's big live show (on video no less!) for the AAAS conference with guest Steven Pinker. 

I missed this one a couple weeks ago, but it's good. Daniel Burke explores how notions of the "Antichrist" reflect a current era's anxieties, meaning that current fears among "armchair apocalyptists" and "newspaper exegetes" is of a Muslim Antichrist. (And not for nothin', I'm going to go ahead and recommend not doing a Google image search for "Antichrist.")

Sunday is the Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers, and CFI branches are holding events, including NYC and DC.  

3 Comments

A Ni¢kell’s Worth

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 20, 2013

Some musings from one who is now well into his fifth decade as a skeptic, humanist, and paranormal investigator:

Less and Less for God to Do

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

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

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper launches a "religious freedom" office, and CFI-Canada notices that secularist groups have not been invited. 

Self-described curmudgeon Jacques Berlinerblau, whose Secularism on the Edge conference gets underway today, expresses a rare hint of optimism for the movement:

I want to note, buzzkillingly, that 2012 was more a victory for secularism than a victory by secularism. But a victory nonetheless! Moreover, secularists can’t help but wonder if the pope’s recent resignation signals, at the very least, a set back for the global anti-secular platform. 

Being ‘Over It’-And the Lack of Charity

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
February 19, 2013

On being "Over It," and the lack of charity in discourse. 

85 Comments

Rewards for Failure

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

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

Spencer Ackerman at Wired: When asteroids come falling, we're essentially screwed

I want to know what, exactly, the Universe is, but I only have a minute. Oh look! A handy video

Well isn't that convenient: Reuters reports that by remaining in the Vatican after he retires, Ratzinger maintains immunity from any prosecution for his role in the abetting of generations of sexual abuse by clergy. 

The Sham Institution That Employs You

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 18, 2013

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

President Obama begins a decade-long moon shot to bring on the Singularity. Not really, but he does intend to "build a comprehensive map" of the human brain, hoping to make big leaps in treatments for things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and advances in artificial intelligence. 

Something for seculars to think about regarding our numbers, our percentage among the population. Following new Gallup data that estimates gay, lesbians and transgender Americans at about 3.5 percent, Andrew Sullivan writes:

And why on earth does it matter if we make up 10 percent or 1 percent? A minority’s civil rights are not dependent on how many of them there are or how large a segment of society they form. Do we say: sorry, guys, you only form 2 percent, you don’t meet the minimal bar for becoming a minority? It’s not like running for the Knesset.  

CFI is now a proud member of the pro-marriage equality coalition Respect for Marriage.

‘Over It’ Follow-Up: Why Would Anyone Criticize an Anti-Rape Poem?

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
February 18, 2013

Feminist activist Eve Ensler wrote a poem saying that she was "over rape" as part of an effort to stop physical and sexual abuse of women. I agreed with much of it, and wrote my own poem based on hers. We have both recently been criticized for it. 

113 Comments

What Did Science Owe to Christianity?

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
February 16, 2013

Yes, experimental science arose in Christian Europe. Does the hostage really owe the captor anything?

2 Comments

Over It.

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
February 15, 2013

On Valentine's Day, feminist activist Eve Ensler asked women around the world to dance in an effort to stop sexual and physical violence against women in an event she called One Billion Rising. How big is the problem, and will it do any good? 

189 Comments

Seriously, Duck and Cover

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 15, 2013

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

So, um, holy crap!

A meteor crashing in Russia's Ural mountains has injured at least 500 people, as the shockwave blew out windows and rocked buildings. . . . A fireball was seen streaking through the clear morning sky above the city of Yekaterinburg, followed by loud bangs. 

And this isn't some thing where it all burned up in the sky. There's a freaking impact crater. I mean, look!

1 Comment

Shaker Digestive Cordial

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 14, 2013

My collection of pseudoscience and paranormal artifacts—online at http://www.skeptiseum.org—has received a new addition: a bottle embossed “Shaker Digestive Cordial/A.J. White New York.” It arrived as a gift from a thoughtful skeptic, Alan Harris of a La Cañada, California, who had queried me about it a couple of years ago. (Thanks Alan!)

Religious Humanism (Or Something) Gone Wild

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
February 14, 2013

Now I've seen it all. NonProphet Status (NPS), the blog of Faitheist author Chris Stedman, is inviting seculars to give something up for Lent!

6 Comments

Valentinosaurus

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

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

Along with our related conundrum over Christmas and Santa Claus (there is no such conundrum for Tom Flynn, of course), we skepto-atheists are now faced with a holiday named for a Catholic saint, and many of us are expected to take part in the surrounding mainly-secular rituals, which usually involve buying a lot of things that are red and pink. Like Christmas, the holiday now has little to do with its namesake or faith of origin. 

But I suppose there's nothing wrong with using the opportunity to remind the people you love how much you love them, and to do something nice for them. Of course, you can do that any time you want, and you should, but doing it today is just fine also. But do it because you want to, because you mean it, not because the Rite Aid is bedecked with cards and heart-shaped balloons. Thus ends my catechism. 

2 Comments

Why CFI Opposed H.R. 592

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
February 13, 2013

Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow taxpayer money to go towards the rebuilding of houses of worship. Here's why the Center for Inquiry (CFI) opposed this measure.

Not So Special in the Grand Scheme of Things

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

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

Today marks one year for me at CFI. (It's not one year for The Morning Heresy, as I didn't start that until the next week, and even then it was still an internal document only.) I'd have a big party with cake and whatnot with my coworkers, but 1) I telecommute from Maine, the End of America, so it'd be hard to get together, 2) I don't like parties, and 3) I'd rather have ice cream or cookies than cake. But still, it's kind of a big deal to me.

There's a lot of consternation in the skepto-atheist movement these days (I guess there almost always is for one reason or another), and very often CFI finds itself at or near the center of it. But that's part of what I like so much about CFI. It covers all the bases, it tackles the tough stuff, but not in a bomb-throwing, outrage-for-the-sake-of-outrage kind of way. Instead, CFI is, to me, about confronting tough questions with a purpose: science, reason, and secularism for the betterment of our species. For our intellectual enrichment, yes, but also for our overall well-being. That sometimes gets people mad, but it also adds substance to the overall discussion of what the heck it is we're all doing here in this movement. And I like where we stand. So even though times in Skepto-atheistville are tumultuous, I'm proud to advance under the banner of the Blue Flaming Meatball and count myself as a part of the Center for Inquiry. Happy anniversary, us!

2 Comments

Greetings from Glasgow, Please Do Not Enslave Our Species

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 12, 2013

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

Today is, of course, the day that the world asks perhaps the most important existential question that confronts our species: Who would win in a fight, Lincoln or Darwin? Born on the same day in 1809, two of the most consequential humans ever to live could, in some fan-fic universe, have crossed paths, angered each other, and decided to go at it. (Let's be honest, Lincoln would totally start it.) Both were tall men, though Lincoln was taller by about 4 inches. Factor that with his rustic upbringing, which undoubtedly included far more manual labor than this guy ever had to endure, and it looks like a clear win for Honest Abe. But don't count Chuck D out, as his years aboard the Beagle would have toughened him up, dealing with salty sea dogs and whatnot. He may have been more scrappy than we can ever really know.

Anyway.

Tonight the president delivers the State of the Union, and WaPo is reporting that he is also considering some executive orders concerning protections for LGBT Americans, as well as energy and climate policy, among other things. 

2 Comments

Nooooo One Expects the Papal Resignation!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 11, 2013

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

Well, you probably already know what the big news is today.

Pope Benedict XVI, at times referred to on this blog as "Mr. Popey-head," announces his intention to resign the papacy in order to spend more time with his family.

No, wait, that wasn't it.

3 Comments

Someone Who Hates Everything I Hate

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 08, 2013

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

Holy moly there's a lot of news this morning. Ill-timed, too, because the snowstorm "Nemo" is descending upon my plucky state of Maine with a vengeance -- and even getting a jump on things! We're already buried in snow, when it wasn't supposed to get blizzard-y until later this afternoon. And they say the real snowmageddon hasn't even started yet. So, as you can imagine, the wife, the kids, and I are all eyeing each other to see which of us we're all going to eat first.  

To the news! 

Religion Dispatches highlights atheist activism on college campuses, and looks to our own Sarah Kaiser and Cody Hashman for insight. 

5 Comments

“Dr.” McLean’s Nostrums

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 08, 2013

While my wife Diana and I visited an aunt in Kentucky during the holidays, from the winter solstice to New Year’s, I paid a visit to Georgetown, where I saw—for the first time in 17 years—my old friend Jerome Redfearn, proprietor of Central Kentucky Antique Mall. As we talked and I browsed, looking for items for my Skeptiseum collection, something caught my eye—a quack medicine item of more than a century ago (pictured here). The price proved to be perfect: Jerome presented it to me as a gift!

Geese, Beer, and Pterosaurs

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 07, 2013

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

President Obama has just wrapped up his speech to the National Prayer Breakfast, and the fact of his participation never gets less disappointing. I didn't see it, but I'm sure we'll be hearing about it. (I just saw on Twitter that in the speech Obama announced the coming departure of Faith-Based Initiatives chief Josh DuBois.) 

Tunisian opposition leader, critic of the Islamist government, Chokri Belaid is assassinated.

Man who tried to shoot up the Family Research Council, wounding security guard Leo Johnson, pleads guilty to terrorism.

We Swoop in with Our Wall of Separation and Make Everything Right

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 06, 2013

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

Britain's House of Commons votes in favor for marriage equality by a huge margin. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is set to extend certain benefits to same-sex couples within its ranks this week.

Science writer extraordinaire Carl Zimmer is the guest on the latest Point of Inquiryand he's got viruses! To talk about. Viruses to talk about. Come on, people. 

CFI's Debbie Goddard declares that the skepto-atheist movement should be much more involved in education and poverty...

Disrupt the DNA

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 05, 2013

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

I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn that the document dump by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles regarding child abuse cover-ups was woefully incomplete, even violating direct judge's orders. Oh, and the punishment meted out to Cardinal Mahony for enabling these crimes may be no punishment at all.

A new HBO documentaryMea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, looks to track this horrific crisis to its roots. Sara Smith at the Kansas City Star says, "No one can now pretend that the men running the world's largest Christian church don't know that they are protecting evil in their midst."

Is Faith in God Reasonable?

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
February 04, 2013

An odd question, but is it really debatable?

Social Media Intern Wanted!

Guest Blog from Point of Inquiry
February 04, 2013

Point of Inquiry is looking for a social media intern!

Do you want to be a part of one of the most popular science podcasts on iTunes? Do you want to help book and promote guests like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Susan Jacoby, Paul Krugman, Lisa Randall, and Oliver Sacks?

You Get 28%

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 04, 2013

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

On Friday, the HHS announced a new policy allowing religious organizations to opt out of the contraceptive coverage rule of the Affordable Care Act. Our own Michael DeDora responded with deep skepticism, and also lamented a seeming lack of backbone on the part of the administration:

It is also troubling that HHS has given so much influence to the religious lobby on a major health and public policy decision. This drawn out debate over something as basic as birth control is a perfect example of the harmful influence of religious belief on public policy.

Sarah Posner cites Michael's analysis in her own breakdown of what's important about this new rule:

It's one thing for the Court to decide when a law violates the religious freedom of a citizen, and another for political pressure to be applied by a particular religious group (or a collection of religious groups sharing a particular religious view) to gain an exemption from a generally applicable law. 

Photographing Sasquatch

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 04, 2013

Here is an unaltered photograph I made of a Sasquatch my wife and I encountered on December 22, 2012, in rural Pennsylvania. Take a good look: They don’t get much more real than this.

3 Comments

Cats Versus Birds: The Limits of Ethics

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
February 03, 2013

Morality does not always provide us with a definitive answer about what’s right and what’s wrong, even when pain and suffering are involved.  This is especially true when we try to extend moral reasoning beyond its usual territory—as when we try to weigh benefits to cats against harm to birds.

5 Comments

Center for Inquiry Concerned With New Accommodations on Birth Control Rule

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
February 01, 2013

The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the birth control rule that alters what HHS considers as a "religious employer," and clarifies how coverage should be set up for employees of organizations that are exempt from the rule.

 

2 Comments

Did Joseph Smith Predict Doomsday?

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
February 01, 2013

Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, said in 1835 that he had spoken to God recently, and during their conversation he learned that Jesus would return within the next 56 years, after which the End Times would begin promptly. Many Mormons have taken exception to this claim; who's right? 

4 Comments

The Internet Will Find You

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 01, 2013

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

Wendy Kaminer at The Atlantic on the prospects of atheist would-be Boy Scouts:

Atheists who want to join associations that disdain them have to change the culture, not the law. Like gays and lesbians, they have to challenge popular notions of sin and immorality. And they have to sever the connection between godliness and patriotism, especially if they want to join the Scouts. 

Our own Tom Flynn relishes in his predictive triumph: It's been good for atheists to out themselves over the past decade or so, so says science

1 Comment