Blog Archives for April 2013

Theology Just Won’t Understand Human Morality

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
April 30, 2013

Frustrated theologians just can't see how humanity can be moral all on its own.

DNA and the Falsification of Beliefs

Guest Blog from Lauren Becker
April 30, 2013

April is an important month to commemorate DNA discoveries and announcements, especially in the context of many widely-held religious beliefs.

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I Don’t Want it to Be a Joke

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 30, 2013

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

As we get set to join allies in worldwide protests against Bangladesh's persecution of atheists and dissidents on May 2 (Thursday), Islamists threaten their own demonstration demanding death for blasphemy three days later. 

August usually sucks as a month, generally, let's admit it. Luckily, you've got us. If you're a grownup, you wanna head to the Skeptic's Toolbox (Aug 8-11) in Eugene, OR. If you're a kid, you're gonna wanna get your gear and head to Camp Inquiry (Aug 4-10) in Holland, NY. And as a side note, we're trying to get Karen Strachan of Camp Inquiry to start blogging here at the CFI site, so stay tuned. 

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It’s a Vexing Time

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

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

CFI boss Ron Lindsay was the guest on Jamila Bey's Sex, Politics, and Religion radio show to talk about the free speech crisis in Bangladesh. Our protests on this issue are scheduled to take place this Thursday!

Christian Post has its own reporting on the groups' different choices to protest last week or postpone to this week in the wake of the building collapse. 

Missouri public radio reports on the protests that were held at Missouri University. 

CFI-Portland will host friend-of-the-blog Peter Boghossian on May 12

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Find Mystery Where None Exists

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

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

As I talked about in the last Heresy, yesterday some groups went ahead with their protest plans, despite the national day of mourning in Bangladesh for the victims of the building collpase outside Dhaka. CFI, CFI-Canada, the British Humanist Association, and the protestors in Dhaka itself are postponing until May 2. Kimberly Winston reports on the situation, quoting me and Dave Silverman on our respective groups' decisions.   

The Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy launches a petition asking Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and White House faith-based initiatives director Melissa Rogers to meet with humanists and nonbelievers to discuss our inclusion (and exclusion) in community memorial and healing events.

Appeal for the publishers of "blasphemous" cartoons jailed in Tunisia is "mysteriously withdrawn."

The Biography of America’s Lake Monster

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
April 25, 2013

A review of The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America's Loch Ness Monster, by Bob Bartholomew. 

Keep National Trail Mix Day Holy

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

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

Yesterday, a building collapsed outside Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, killing well over 100 people, and injuring over 1000. The government declared today, April 25, to be a national day of mourning. As you know, CFI and other groups were to hold protests in cities around the world against Bangladesh's persecution of atheists and dissenters. The tragic events of yesterday have forced us to reconsider.

CFI and its allies still believe firmly in holding these protests, though we had differing ideas about how to proceed. CFI, CFI-Canada, the British Humanist Association, and the activists in Dhaka itself have decided to postpone protests by one week to May 2. That means we will hold protest demonstrations in DC, New York City, London, Ottawa, and hopefully many other cities on that day. . . .

“Mysteries and Monsters”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
April 24, 2013

On April 21, the popular MSNBC-TV show Caught on Camera aired an episode titled “Mysteries and Monsters.” I assisted in the research for the six segments and appeared on camera in three of them. Here is a brief synopsis of the entertaining show, together with some additional comments. (The segments are given in order, with an * indicating the ones in which I appeared.)

There’s No Need to Whisper

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 24, 2013

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

Tomorrow is the day secularists and our allies gather to protest the Bangladeshi crackdown on atheism and free expression in demonstrations around the world. Tell everyone in your social networks, and take part! 

Five schoolgirls in Indonesia are in trouble for blasphemy (or "tainting religion") for the crime of recording themselves dancing to Maroon 5 and performing some prayer movements. They were turned in by their own school.

Hacked AP Twitter account tweets false news of the president being injured in White House bomb blasts, which sends the Dow plummeting briefly. 

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The Only Relevant Debate

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 23, 2013

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

AP reports on the Boston bombing suspect:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's [written] answers led [investigators] to believe he and his brother were motivated by a radical brand of Islam without major terror connections... 

Andrew Sullivan balks at the idea that these attacks might not have been religiously motivated:

[T]o dismiss the overwhelming evidence that this was also religiously motivated – a trail that now includes a rant against his own imam for honoring Martin Luther King Jr. because he was not a Muslim – is to be blind to an almost text-book case of Jihadist radicalization. 

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Big Macs Prevent Alzheimer’s

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

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

The global protest against the persecution of atheists and other dissenters in Bangladesh is this Thursday. Check this page for the latest news on where protest events are being held, and if you know of others, tell us! 

Before his arrest, Bangladeshi atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin posted this to the Richard Dawkins site:

Religious sentiments are so easy to be offended, that sentiment is always ready to be hurt. Religious fundamentalist always search google, facebook and youtube for the contents that hurts their sentiment and always cry to stop those Blasphemy! I don't know who told them to search those things and hurt themselves! This is so ridiculous and nonsense.  

John Chalmers at Reuters lends political and historical context to the crisis in Bangladesh.

“Interfaith” and Inclusion: Another View

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
April 19, 2013

There's been much passionate commentary about the recent Boston interfaith service excluding humanist, atheists, and other freethinkers. It's not for lack of effort; Harvard humanist chaplain Greg Epstein and other heavy-hitters in the movement strove mightily for a place on the altar -- pardon me, stage -- and were coldly stonewalled. But what are we asking for when we seek inclusion in such events? While it may make sense for Epstein, whose work skews religious-humanist, to want a place at an interfaith event, should atheists and more secular humanists be seeking to stand by his side? I don't think so. On my view, those of us in the movement who are not comfortable with the "religious humanist" identifier should not be seeking entry to interfaith events. Instead, we should be boycotting them, then demanding something more inclusive in their place.

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Shock and Grief

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

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

I am reading the news this morning with my jaw hanging open, as I imagine many of you are (I mean, a freaking grenade fight???). At the time of my writing, we know that the suspects are Chechen brothers, that they are white (literally Caucasians), that one was killed in the firefight with police, and another is reportedly surrounded in Watertown. It's almost unbelievable. 

For the purposes of this blog, I thought it might be useful to lend some clarity to the role religion might be playing in the suspects' motives. According to this 2004 interview at BeliefNet with Brian Glynn Williams, an Islamic historian, Chechen Islam, even when radicalized, is not the kind of stereotypical motivation for violence we often default to in our imaginations. . . 

Scriptural Basis for Self-Serving Gutlessness

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

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

This morning we announced that atheist groups around the world, led by CFI, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, American Atheists, and CFI-Canada, will take part in protests against the persecution of atheists and other dissenters in Bangladesh. Right now there are planned protests in New York, DC, London, Ottawa, and Calgary. We need the freethought community to get behind this in force, to coordinate additional demonstrations in more cities in more countries. Here's where information will be kept up to date on any related events, and when tweeting about this, include the hashtag #DefendDissent.

Bangladesh's own BDNews24 reports on CFI's call to the State Department to put pressure on the Bangladeshi government. 

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The Rise of the Post-Christians

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
April 17, 2013

It is still said that America is a Christian nation. Really?

Pagans, Bitcoins, and Microbes

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 17, 2013

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

Dave Weigel lines up the reasons why Boston conspiracy theorists may have "a tough road ahead" toward credibility. 

Someone with a little foresight snagged the bostonmarathonconspiracy.com domain, and did something useful with it.  

Muslim groups are scrambling to show their solidarity with victims and their revulsion at the attack. 

When Seculars Get Sectarian

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
April 16, 2013

Making the rounds on Facebook is an announcement that yet another humanist/atheist charity has started a fund drive for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. It's a fine cause, but I wonder whether its organizers have considered the implications when nonbelievers -- normally quick to revile sectarianism when religious people indulge in it -- conduct a blatantly sectarian appeal for aid. Perhaps it's overdue to review the full meaning of the word "secular."

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Find Out a Little About Everything

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 16, 2013

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

Following the horror of yesterday's explosions in Boston, of course all those affected -- and all those who will be affected -- are in our thoughts, and have our deepest condolences; for the loss, the pain, and the shock and fear so many will now feel. Here's some information on what folks can do to help out. One thing was heartening: seeing so many people on Twitter (skeptics and otherwise) steadfastly insisting that when we talk about who might be responsible and why, we rely on evidence and facts rather than suspicions and assumptions.

Hemant has statements from local freethought groups

Of course, it took about five seconds for absurd conspiracies to get their moment in the spotlight. 

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The Story of “Rattlesnake Pete”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
April 15, 2013

Among the old-time snake hunters and peddlers of rattlesnake oil was Peter “Rattlesnake Pete” Gruber (1858–1932) (see first photo). As related in Arch Merrill’s Shadows on the Wall (1952), Pete was born in Oil City, Pennsylvania, the eldest of a pioneer oil refiner’s nine children. He would later claim, that, while a boy hiking in the local hills, he had come upon an old Indian woman from the Seneca reservation. Dragging behind her on a rope a big dead rattlesnake, she explained to Pete how she would extract the fatty oil, which was used to treat rheumatism, stiff joints, even earache—among other afflictions. Impressed by the boy’s interest, she even gave him the snake’s skin. Pete later learned from the Indians how to capture the rattlers, and from the medicine men how to use them for various folk remedies.

The Paratroopers of God’s Army

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

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

Turkish pianist Fazil Say gets a suspended jail term for blasphemy, following a series of tweets last year the court considered to be "insulting religious values of a part of the population." 

Pope Francis appoints a commission of cardinals to advise on bureaucratic reform for the Vatican. Speaking of which, some Vatican representatives will be holding a "dialogue" with nonbelievers in Mexico.

Camp Inquiry's Karen Strachan is among the guests on the Skeptical Connections podcast. 

Trance: Trainwreck from a Trainspotting Director

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
April 14, 2013

Trance is not inherently a bad movie; it’s just one of those movies where the longer it went on, the less I cared who lived, who died, or whether anyone found that damned painting. 

 

 

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Payot on a Plane

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

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

CFI sent out an action alert yesterday on behalf of the persecuted atheists in Bangladesh. We're formally asking the State Department to weigh in, and start to put pressure on the Bangladeshi government. You can add your voice here. Yesterday we learned that the atheist bloggers already arrested have been "grilled" for seven days, and a hearing for them has been postponed.

Two more young people in Bangladesh are arrested for blasphemy in the mean time, perpetrated on Facebook. 

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It’s Almost an Embarrassment

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

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

Okay, my nerd brain just exploded, reformed itself into a new nerd brain, and then exploded againHere's a panel discussion with Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Brian Greene, Ira Flatow, Neal Stephenson (!!!), Tracy Day, and Lawrence Krauss. 

The Bangladesh crisis spirals further out of control: Mahmudur Rahman, acting editor of a Bangladeshi newspaper, is arrested for printing quotes from the persecuted atheist bloggers, or, "inciting people by publishing defamatory comments against religion." Stay tuned for more from CFI on this.

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The People You Think are Real

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 10, 2013

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

Daniel Loxton writes a thoughtful post on what he sees as the problems of conflating atheism and skepticism, and cautions his fellow atheists against smugness:

To promote the belief that atheists are different than other people does nothing but undermine our humanity. It denies the human complexity of religious nonbelievers. In doing so, it sells out atheists.

Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef in trouble for dissing the Egyptian president, also now charged with "insulting Pakistan" and "spreading atheism." 

Weird Nasty Parts

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 09, 2013

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

CFI submitted formal comments to the Department of Health and Human Services yesterday, urging the administration to stand firm against religious pressure to further weaken the contraceptive mandate. Here's the full letter (PDF).

Ron Lindsay slams the Catholic Church's resistance to contraceptive coverage as "a cruel joke":

HHS isn’t forcing the bishops or their followers to do a damn thing. But they simply can’t abide the thought that their purity might be ruined through some sort of remote contact with a woman who is taking a drug that, you know, affects her weird nasty parts. 

The latest Point of Inquiry has AC Grayling, who refutes religious arguments "with zest and humor."  

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Those Filthy Women: The Catholic Church’s Objections to the HHS Rule on Contraceptive Care

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
April 08, 2013

As you probably know, back in August 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule requiring employers to offer employees health insurance that provides preventive health care services. Based upon advice from the scientific and medical communities, these services include contraceptive care. Based upon advice from God, the Catholic Church has been engaged in an all-out war to kill the proposed rule.

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The Snack That Smiles Back

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

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

David Kuo, formerly of the Bush White House's faith-based initiatives office, and later a critic of that effort, is dead at 44. From the NYT obit:

[I]n the prologue to his memoir Mr. Kuo wrote that his experience in government had given him clarity about the limits of politics. “I have seen what happens when well-meaning Christians are seduced into thinking deliverance can come from the Oval Office, a Supreme Court chamber or the floor of the United States Congress,” he wrote. “They are easily manipulated by politicians who use them for their votes, seduced by trinkets of power, and tempted to turn a mission field (politics) into a battlefield.” 

What Would You Do With Your $11,000 in Lost Wages?

Guest Blog from Sarah Kaiser
April 05, 2013

Equal work deserves equal pay.

The National Women's Law Center is asking people to join their annual Blog for Equal Pay Day blog carnival. Their prompt (the title of this post) stems from the statistic that on average women make 77 cents for every dollar men make, amounting to just over $11,000 in lost wages each year.

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Curious and Teachable

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

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

North Carolina's House Speaker says the bill that would allow for the establishment of a state religion is dead.

Breaking news, via NYT:

A federal judge has ruled that the government must make the most common morning-after pill available over the counter for all ages, instead of requiring a prescription for girls 16 and younger. 

Hemant Mehta weighs in on the New-Atheists-as-racists meme. . .

A Complicated Intellectual Maneuver

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

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

Sarah Posner rebuts the notion that the culture wars are winding down, citing the insanity happening at the state level. 

For example: Tennessee legislators say, sure tax dollars can help fund religious schools. But Muslim schools? No no no no.   

Michael De Dora and the Office of Public Policy offer up their first Advocacy Update to keep you informed as to their crucial work in DC and elsewhere.

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Disagreement over Whether We Must Agree to Disagree about Whether We Must Disagree Agreeably

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 03, 2013

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

The leaders of several major skepto-atheist organizations sign on to a letter calling for civility in the recent disputes between skepto-atheists, and suggesting alternatives to online bomb-throwing.

Most of the big orgs have attached themselves to it, including CFI and the Council for Secular Humanism, though not surprisingly, not everyone is pleased. Secular Woman and American Secular Census have opted to refrain from signing on, not out of a disdain for civility, necessarily. Rebecca Watson calls it "stone tablet communication." On the other hand, Hemant Mehta calls it "a place of common agreement" and commends the signatories.

Many of the articles from Free Inquiry's groundbreaking issue on the US military's atheists are now online. 

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

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
April 02, 2013

What should the scope of skepticism be? There are countless causes I support, including environmentalism, feminism, animal protection, social justice, exposing hypocrisy, science communication, media literacy, and others. But I rarely tackle these issues under the banner of skepticism. Here's why.

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The Sky is What Mattered

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 02, 2013

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

CFI chief Ron Lindsay joined a HuffPost Live panel, along with Frank Schaeffer, JT Eberhard and others, to talk about bringing up kids with or without religion. It gets heated, as these things usually do.

Hey neat: Here at the Heresy, we've been linking to an ever-growing number of articles about Frans de Waal's The Bonobo and the Atheist and his distaste for "new atheism." Well guess who's on Point of Inquiry this week?? Dennis Rodman!!! No, I'm kidding, it's Frans de Waal. 

Our Office of Public Policy wants you to tell the White House to get a spine on contraceptive coverage in the health care law.

Even the Aliens are Feeling the Sequester

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

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

Oh hey, vaccines don't cause autism. Who knew? From a big new study in the Journal of Pediatrics

We found no evidence indicating an association between exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides contained in vaccines during the first two years of life and the risk of acquiring autism spectrum disorder, autism disorder or autism spectrum disorder with regression . . . These results indicate that parental concerns that their children are receiving too many vaccines in the first two years of life or too many vaccines at a single doctor visit are not supported in terms of an increased risk of autism.

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