Blog Archives for March 2013

Marriage Evolves

Guest Blog from Lauren Becker
March 29, 2013

Religious contracts based on sex are as inappropriate as arranged marriage and feudalism. If we really want to protect marriage, we must redefine it. Marriage for sex is no match for marriage for love.

All the Squabbling Skills

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
March 29, 2013

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

CFI chief Ron Lindsay wants activist atheists to learn from the LGBT movement in how it has prioritized and appealed to broadly-shared values:

Going after “symbolic” targets—crosses, mottoes, and so forth—may not always be the best strategy. It depends on the situation, of course, because some of these cases are easy wins based on precedent and some situations are just too outrageous too ignore. But I think it is fair to say that having the words “In God We Trust” on our money does not strike many religious people as an intolerable assault on the human dignity of nonbelievers. Don’t get me wrong. I abhor that motto as much as anyone else, but we should be realistic about where we focus our efforts.

Trevor Boeckmann of CFI On Campus affiliate UNIFI argues against the secular movement's use of lawsuits to further its aims (and has the best headline I've seen in a long time, "Suing Ourselves in the Foot"). 

Some Lessons from the LGBT Movement

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
March 28, 2013

The battle for same-sex marriage isn’t over, but the outcome is no longer in doubt.

7 Comments

UPDATED: Another Easter for the Turin “Shroud”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
March 28, 2013

Claims that new tests show the “shroud” of Turin is not medieval after all, but dates from the first century, have been published in the media by Italian researchers. As is typical of a religious rather than scientific agenda, their news was shrewdly released just in time for Easter. That alone casts doubt on the claims, but there is more.

1 Comment

Pastors of the Dead in Comfortable Chairs

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

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

Yesterday, I called CFI-Indiana's chief Reba Boyd Wooden a "media darling" for appearing so frequently on local news and whatnot. And let me tell you, I am thrilled whenever that happens because she does such a great job representing CFI and what we stand for. Well, I have to assume that the press in Indiana agreed with me, because she was unavoidable on Indiana media yesterday. The state is on the cusp of passing an extremely restrictive and punitive anti-abortion bill, and Reba went to the statehouse to offer testimony in opposition, which was covered by Fox 59WISH-TV 8, and The Statehouse File

Right wing pundit Erick Erickson says, I presume with a straight face, that marriage equality and religious freedom are "incompatible." CFI's Michael De Dora blows that idea apart.

2 Comments

Marriage equality and religious freedom are compatible

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
March 27, 2013

A brief response to Erick Erickson, who claims that marriage equality is incompatible with religious freedom. 

 

 

Boy Sherlock

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
March 27, 2013

Already a detective at eight, when I was about ten years old (about 1954), I became Sherlock Holmes.

1 Comment

The Cruel and the Ridiculous

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
March 27, 2013

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

The Nine heard arguments about gay marriage and California's Prop 8 yesterday, which weirdly included some speculation as to the fertility of the late senator Strom Thurmond.  

Crowds, protesters, and activists swarmed the capital, and CFI was there, too. CFI policy analyst Ed Beck got into a back and forth with a minister, and was photographed by the Washington Post, with Michael De Dora behind him. ("My face is melting," Ed told me.) Also, Business Insider featured a tweet from Michael on the most notable signage at the rally. His is the second one down.

CFI-Indiana's Reba Boyd Wooden (a media darling, let's be honest) appears on the Indianapolis ABC affiliate's news coverage of the case, and she guesses that the Roberts Court may not want to be remembered as being "on the wrong side of history."

Some Witches Use Their Power in a Positive Way

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

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

Happy Let's-Argue-About-Gay-Marriage-At-The-Supreme-Court Day! Yesterday, CFI sent out a message telling folks about our efforts to support marriage equality in this week's cases involving Prop 8 and DOMA, along with allies like the American Humanist Association.

Our own Michael De Dora trumpets the defeat of voucher amendments to the Senate's budget last week. 

CFI-Indiana's Reba Boyd Wooden posts her acclaimed testimony against vouchers to the state legislature. 

Opposing School Vouchers in Indiana

Picture by Susan Lantzer.

Freethought from the Heartland with Reba Boyd Wooden
March 25, 2013

On Tuesday, March 19, members of CFI-Indiana joined Indiana Coalition for Public Education and other organizations for a rally against school vouchers at the Indiana State House.  The following day, I sat through nearly 4 hours of testimony supporting the bill to expand the already problematic voucher program in Indiana before the opposition got its turn to testify.  Each speaker (from both sides) was only allowed 5 minutes to state his/her case.  When I got my turn, I first felt the need to correct a person who had missused a word earlier making his statement the opposite of what he meant and then got to give less than half of my prepared speech.  However, my former student on the Senate Education committee was a model student and took my printed speech, left the room, copied and stapled copies for each member of the committee, and passed them out.  Here is my prepared speech: (I borrowed extensively from CFI's position paper on school vouchers. )  

The Secular Agenda

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
March 25, 2013

Today’s great debates over religious liberty and secular government.

Senate Rejects School Voucher Amendment

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
March 25, 2013

In gearing up for a final vote on the 2014 Budget Resolution, U.S. Senate this past weekend conducted a 13-hour voting session -- commonly referred to as "vote-a-rama" -- during which it rejected a school voucher amendment. 

Their Audiences Pee in Their Pants with Delight

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

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

Good news: One of the voucher amendments CFI asked you to tell your Senators to vote against was defeated on Friday, 60-39. Even Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), not well-liked by many skeptics for his support of alt-med, spoke strongly against the voucher amendments. 

Robert Evans at Reuters reports on the efforts of CFI and the IHEU to get the UN to stand up for the rights of nonbelievers as it does for other persecuted religious minorities. Said Dr. Elizabeth O'Casey of CFI:

Many people who recognize no supernatural being are suffering and even dying for trying to exercise their right to hold and profess their views. 

1 Comment

Prawnmageddon

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

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

This is happening now-ish: 2014 Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 8) is being debated today in the US Senate, and it's got vouchers in it. Our Office of Public Policy would like you to urge your senators to nix that part

So, I was just talking to the Universe, and I was like, hey, Universe, not that you asked, but you don't look a day over 13 billion. Then the Universe was all, thanks, Paul, but I'm actually 13.82 billion! And I was all NO WAY. 

io9 has a list of fictional omnipotent beings, like Q, who are also jerks. Weirdly not on the list: Yahweh.

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An Obscure Gem of a Nonprofit

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

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

Emily Willingham at Forbes: Be watchful for panicky stories about how there are more folks with autism than we thought:

. . . if you look at the numbers and the report itself, you’ll see that overall, the numbers of people born with autism aren’t necessarily increasing dramatically. It’s just that we’re getting better and better at counting them 

Chris Stedman offers tips for Christians in connecting with non-Christians without making everyone mad. (And cites our new report on fundamentalism in the military.) 

At Buffalo's ArtVoice, Ian Murphy of The Buffalo Beast calls out CFI as a "positive influence" in the region, but calls us "an obscure gem of a nonprofit," which is weird, but we'll take it.

3 Comments

Horrors! Amityville Returns!

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
March 20, 2013

Although claims in The Amityville Horror book and movie seemed to have been laid to rest—after a civil trial yielded evidence that the “demonic” events were mostly fiction—the case has resurfaced once again. This time the oldest child of the troubled family, Daniel Lutz, who was nine at the time of the brouhaha, has come forward to claim the essential story was true and that he and his stepfather George had been “possessed.”

1 Comment

Believing Grasshoppers Can Speak

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

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

Malala is going back to school

James Parco, author of the important new CFI report on fundamentalism running rampant in the U.S. military, is the guest on State of Belief, the radio show of the Interfaith Alliance. 

Also, the new issue of Free Inquiry, available now, has a special section on atheists' battle for equality in the military, guest edited by MAAF's Jason Torpy.    

Maryam Namazie on the Muslim Brotherhood's assertion that a declaration decrying violence against women conflicts with Islam: "I could have told you that." 

Flinch-Worthy

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

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

Dr. Elizabeth O'Casey, CFI's Geneva UN representative, takes the UN to task for not including the nonreligious in resolutions on freedom of religion:

The EU's refusal to include any direct reference to non-believers as a group meriting special protection from religious intolerance fails people like Kacem. It also fails the one in six people across the globe who do not self-identify as religious. That's a lot of people to fail. 

She of Pandagon and Slate (and a speaker at Women in Secularism 2), Amanda Marcotte, is the guest on the latest Point of Inquiry

Kimberly Winston covers atheists' exploration of religious practices, like Lent, and talks to our own Tom Flynn about why he thinks it's not so smart.

The UN’s Silence on Discrimination and Violence Against Non-Believers

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
March 18, 2013

Dr. Elizabeth O'Casey, CFI's representative at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, reports that the European Union has rejected an attempt to include non-religious persons in a resolution on freedom of religion or belief.

3 Comments

Mostly Warps and Rarely Fulfills

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

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

Our boss Ron Lindsay is back at work after being on a leave of absence (not that you'd know it):

Been gone for a few weeks. Living in a cave in north Pakistan. Little known fact: Al-Zawahiri snores. 

NYT focuses on Pope Francis during the Argentinian "Dirty War," as he offers a "complex description of his role during the dictatorship." 

Still, at the very least, this pope offered his popeliness to nonbelievers:

Given that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I give this blessing from my heart, in silence, to each one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God. May God bless you. 

2 Comments

He Who Doesn’t Pray to God Prays to the Devil

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
March 16, 2013

Been gone for a few weeks. Living in a cave in north Pakistan. Little known fact: Al-Zawahiri snores.

10 Comments

Former Hillary Clinton Advisor Authors Atheist News Roundup

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

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

Yesterday, CFI gave its official response to the election of Pope Francis, mainly in the context of social issues, Meanwhile, Argentina's "Dirty War" dogs the new pope.  

A bill in the US House by Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma calls for protecting religious minorities in the Arab world. Though it does not mention anything about the nonreligious, it does call for an end to blasphemy laws.

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes, in this spirit of Arab Spring revolution, that religious minority freedoms and rights must be protected; and

(2) urges in the strongest terms that the United States Government lead the international effort to repeal existing blasphemy laws. 

Non Habemus Google Lector

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

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

You of course are aware of the biggest news story that came down yesterday, affecting perhaps a billion people around the world, and impacting every aspect of our culture: Google Reader is shutting down.

Oh, also, there's a new pope. Frank-something.

There's going to be a lot to digest about this guy over the coming days and weeks. Key things for our folks to know is that, yes, shock of shocks, he's a doctrinaire conservative in terms of things like sex and abortion, though he is also said to have a social justice streak in terms of things like poverty... 

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The Scope of Skeptical Activism: A Personal Story Part 1 of 2

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
March 13, 2013

I'm best known for my skeptical investigations and research into paranormal subjects. It's not surprising that people tend to focus on that, since those are weird, sensational claims, but that's only a small part of my work. Here's a look at the broader scope of skeptical activism from my personal perspective.

Secularists Should Welcome Church-State Expert As New Head of Faith-Based Office

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
March 13, 2013

In a move that should draw praise from secularists, the White House confirmed today that it would appoint Melissa Rogers as the new director of the federal Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Rogers will replace Joshua DuBois, who stepped down last month.

Stop Giggling When I Say “Cometary Panspermia”

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

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

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain declares March 14 to be the International Day to Defend Apostates and Blasphemers, highlighting the persecution of folks like Alexander Aan, Alber Saber, and other dissidents highlighted by our own Campaign for Free Expression, and CFI's president and CEO Ron Lindsay is a signatory to the effort. 

If this is true, it's a big deal: Carl Franzen at The Verge reports on news about the Red Planet:

NASA just announced that its Curiosity rover has discovered evidence that Mars had the conditions necessary to support life in ancient times, specifically microorganisms.  

And not just "kind of" support life:

"We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it," said John Grotzinger, Curiosity's chief project scientist. 

And if this is true, it may be an even bigger deal: Cardiff University scientist Jamie Wallis claims to have found fossilized microbes in a rock...from space. Says Wallis:

This provides clear and convincing evidence that these obviously ancient remains of extinct marine algae found embedded in the Polonnaruwa meteorite are indigenous to the stones and not the result of post-arrival microbial contaminants. 

Are Nonbelievers Perceived as Less Moral?

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
March 12, 2013

Don't assume that research has reached a conclusion yet.

3 Comments

Be Increasingly Irrelevant

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

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

Lemme tell you, folks. My 7-month-old daughter kept me up most of the night last night. She's a great baby, don't get me wrong, and for someone with only negligible motor and verbal skills, she's really damn funny and charming. But less so at 4am. So I'm a little bleary as I present this morning's edition of the Heresy, so bear with me.  

Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command says that climate change is the greatest security threat to the Pacific region. Whew, good thing it's not real. 

Kansas City Atheist Coalition is banned from a St. Patrick's Day parade, out of "respect for the legacy of St. Patrick." 

Stellar neighbors we never knew we had: Two very nearby, mutually-orbiting brown dwarf stars discovered.  

Skeptickles

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
March 11, 2013

In defense of her ignorant use of the non-existent word refudiate (following George W. Bush’s misunderestimate), Sarah Palin tried to grab the neologist’s hat by comparing herself to a literary master: “Shakespeare,” she said, “liked to coin new words too.” Well, I refudiate her attemptation to Shakespearialize her allegified coinizing. She misunderestimates our intelligization.

1 Comment

Looking for Bigger Rocks

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

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

Douglas Adams would be 61 today. And still, I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle. Today's Google Doodle brilliantly honors Adams. Keep clicking the Guide to see really great little animations. (Notably, the Guide in the image looks a lot like a second-generation Kindle.) Here's a permalink to the doodle.

Rob Boston takes to AlterNet to showcase five young people doing battle with anti-science forces in their public schools.  

AFP: Over 100 homes of Christians are burned in Lahore, Pakistan by a mob of over 3000, following allegedly blasphemous remarks from a young Christian. 

Film review: Oz the Great and Powerful

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
March 08, 2013

At a reported cost of $200 million to make, Oz the Great and Powerful is a much better exercise in direction and production design than screenwriting. 

1 Comment

Deliberately Breaking All Codes of Politeness or Manners

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

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

Wow there's a lot of news for a Friday. Let's start with something nice. Go ahead and enjoy theseSmithsonian Magazine's finalists for their 2012 photo contest.  

CFI's Michael De Dora is about to whip some would-be secular activists into shape with a training workshop with CFI-NYC on March 17.  

Human rights org Article 19 releases a report on the efforts around the world to ban so-called "homosexual propaganda":

These bans must be seen in the worrying context of attempts to manipulate international human rights law to take account of ‘traditional values.’ 

2 Comments

The Very Fabric of Our Country

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

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

Rob Boston of Americans United on the new CFI report on fundamentalism in the military:

[Jim] Parco’s report is important. It deserves to be read – and acted upon – in the highest echelons of the U.S. military. 

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation will lead a rally tomorrow in Colorado Springs protesting the USAFA for promoting a homophobic and misogynistic religious website.

CFI-Canada leads the calls for Simon Fraser University in Vancouver to not allow an anti-vaccination conference to take place on its campus. Here is the full letter sent to the university.

3 Comments

HuffPost Live Discusses CFI’s New Report on Fundamentalism in the Military

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

CFI just released an important new position paper on the rise of fundamentalist Christianity in the U.S. military, written by Jim Parco, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and former member of the NSC under President Clinton. It's fascinating and disturbing, and already has a lot of people talking.

The Right to Stay Away

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

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

Must-see: The HuffPost Live panel on fundamentalism in the military with Jim Parco, author of the CFI report on this issue, as well as Blake Page and Mikey Weinstein. 

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, does not see things the way we do:

We don't see agnosticism or atheism as being in need of defense in the same way persecuted religious minorities are. We speak of the right to worship and practice in peace, not the right to stay away from places of worship. 

The NYT comes down against FEMA grants to houses of worship on church-state separation grounds...

Noah Nez, The Native Skeptic

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
March 05, 2013

I first heard about the Native Skeptic from Desiree Schell, the host of the Skeptically Speaking podcast. She mentioned a writer named Noah Nez who blogged about skepticism within the Native American community. He's been a columnist for the Skeptical Briefs ever since. 

Something Just Clicked

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

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

CFI drops an important new position paper on the rise of rampant Christianism in the U.S. Military.

The report itself is authored by Jim Parco of Colorado College, formerly of the National Security Council under Clinton and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. You can read his forward to the report here. And if reading is a bummer to you, here are some bullets of key findings

A one-two punch of awesomeness from Kimberly Winston at RNS: First, she profiles "Samya," a young Middle Eastern woman who is fleeing Islam and the violent consequences of her apostasy.

Then, Winston looks at CFI-NYC's own efforts to support former or questioning Muslims with the program "Muslim-ish."

5 Comments

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act Bars Federally Funded Religious Discrimination

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
March 04, 2013

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which Congress approved last week, includes important language which prevents groups that receive federal funds from discriminating based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or gender identity. 

 

1 Comment

“Dark Skies”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
March 04, 2013

Help! Alien beings are abducting us! At least that is the message of the movie Dark Skies (released in February 2013).

1 Comment

Barack + Nessie 4eva

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

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

Margaret Talbot at the New Yorker on the internal views of the sex abuse crisis within in the Catholic Church:

What is distinctive is that Catholic officials can find a higher purpose—protecting the sanctity of the priesthood—in shielding abusers, and a spiritually rewarding humility in enduring criticism of their conduct. [Los Angeles cardinal] Mahony has been blogging about the public disparagement he has received, and he compares it to what Christ withstood, urging the faithful to join him in exploring what it is to “take up our cross daily and to follow Jesus—in rejection, in humiliation, and in personal attack.” But, unlike the criminal prosecution of perpetrators—or real Church reform—that doesn’t do much to help victims or to prevent abuse.

Disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland cops to "having engaged in unspecified sexual misbehavior" with priests. 

1 Comment

You May Already Be a Winner

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

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

Fox 29 in Indiana talks to CFI-Indiana's Reba Boyd Wooden in a piece about the end of Ratzinger's reign

Danish Muslims organize to defend the freedom of speech of anti-Islamic writer Lars Hedegaard, who narrowly escaped assassination last month. Know hope.

The State Department's Esther Brimmer delivers remarks on the US's role on the UN Human Rights Council...