Blog Archives for July 2013

Tactful Phrasing, Polite Omissions, and White Lies

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 31, 2013

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

The AP covers the Raif Badawi story, the Saudi liberal activist convicted for "insulting Islam" and sentenced to a prison term and 600 lashes, noting that the judge spared Badawi the charge of apostasy, which would have meant the death penalty. Muslims for Progressive Values slams Saudi Arabia over this case, and its violation of its duties under international treaties.

David Mizner looks more broadly at the human rights crisis in Saudi Arabia

Given Bawadi's conviction, and yesterday's verdict in the Bradley Manning trial, this effort seems all the sillier: A Kenyan lawyer, Dola Indidis, wants to overturn Pontius Pilate's conviction of Jesus of Nazareth. Little late, dude.

‘Atheophobia’ Hysteria?

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

Has the slandering of atheism, long heard from religion, been detected as lurking treachery within our own secular ranks?

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Monks and Their Molotov Cocktails

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

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

Saudi liberal Raif Badawi is sentenced to 7 years in prison and 600 lashes -- 600! -- for blasphemous blogging. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin has his plea for permanent bail rejected, and is sent back to jail on blasphemy charges.

Ron Lindsay went on HuffPost Live yesterday for a very interesting discussion on religious homeschooling, and the meaning of religious persecution. 

Soraya Chemaly has five suggestions as to why there are not more women in the movement. 

Spiritually Itchy

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

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

CFI's Student Leadership Conference has just wrapped up, and I think it's safe to say that almost everyone has been inspired (and exhausted). Most importantly, though, folks laughed at the jokes in my talk, so that makes it an undeniably big success. 

While the secular youth were getting jazzed to change the world, this weekend also brought the Pope-a-palooza, as he made his big trip to Brazil (where he picked up a bunch of soccer jerseys). Blowing many people's minds, when asked about gay priests, he said:

If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? 

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Anti-Humanist Chaplain Vote in the House Has a Lesson For Us

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
July 26, 2013

By a 253 to 173 vote, the U. S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to H. R. 2397, the defense authorization bill, that will block the appointment of humanist chaplains in the military. Most in the movement have been outraged. I follow a different drummer. By forbidding humanist chaplains, the House majority has reminded us of something important about chaplaincy -- and about religion itself -- something that I fear too many humanists have been willing to overlook in their recent "Ooooh, we want to be chaplains too!" enthusiasm.

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Homeopathic PowerPoint

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

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

The Student Leadership Conference is in full swing, and the metaphorical vibe is very good. Susan Gerbic is giving her talk right now as I type (sorry, Susan!), and she had a technical glitch in which her presenation screen went blank except for an arrow cursor. Brilliantly, she gestured to the screen and said, "Homeopathy, ladies and gentlemen!" 

Let's take a look at a couple of fun diseases that are making an exciting comeback!

Let's hear it for measles! Writes Margaret Wente at The Globe and Mail:

Some anti-vaxxers belong to fringe religious groups. But some are highly educated, hyper-vigilant, holistically minded parents who believe the environment is full of toxic substances that are potential threats to their children. Some think the medical establishment has no right to tell them what to do.

Dawkins’ Tea Cup

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
July 24, 2013

On display at the Secular Hub in Colorado. 

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Mark Career as Spam

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

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

Fair warning: Tomorrow I travel in the morning to hit the CFI Student Leadership Conference at the Meatball Mothership, so there may not be a Morning Heresy. If there is one, it will likely be short, rushed, and rife with errors. So other than being short, it will closely resemble the usual Heresy.

Later this morning, Forecast the Facts is organizing a protest at Google HQ to tell them to stop funding science deniers, and CFI is a partner in the effort. You can also partake in the CFI action alert.

Alan Turing, the guy who pretty much gave us computing, and who helped us beat the Nazis by decrypting the Enigma code, will be posthumously pardoned by the UK. What'd he do in the first place? Well, he was gay.  

Speaking of Turing, who better to play him in a movie than CUMBERBAAAATCH

“The Conjuring”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 23, 2013

Being given rave ratings by gee-whiz reviewers, while being panned as just another cliché-ridden scary movie by intelligent film critics, The Conjuring is a piece of work. It depicts Roger and Carolyn Perron (played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor), together with their five daughters, moving into an old Rhode Island farmhouse in 1971 where, well, hysteria soon reigns. The flames are fanned by Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) the famous—or infamous—paranormal “investigators.”

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A Bright Dot Below the Rings

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

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

Cassini took our picture from Saturn! We're the bright dot below the rings. Did you smile? I think I blinked. Can we do it again?

Our public policy shop put out an action alert yesterday concerning the Buckeye State...hold on...<looks up what a "buckeye" is>...Holy crap, it's a tree! Whose real name is Aesculus, after the ancient Greek playwright! Wow!

What was I talking about? Right, an action alert concerning the Ohio legislature's attempts to impose draconian restrictions on reproductive rights, which, as we write, "are unsupported by scientific evidence and incompatible with logic, reason, and the basic human values of fairness and decency." Take action here.

Kimberly Winston reports on the push for humanist military chaplains.

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Boston Strangler Breaking News

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 22, 2013

Between June 14, 1962, and January 5, 1964, eleven Boston-area women—ages 19 to 85—were victims of a serial killer or killers. The cases were linked by similar elements of modus operandi: each victim was attacked in her apartment (except for one murdered in a hotel room); each had been sexually attacked; each was strangled with an article of clothing (although one had also been repeatedly stabbed); and each, with a single exception, was Caucasian.

Messy, Raw, and Muddled

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

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

Let me tell you folks, Mondays are a beast for the Heresy. All the news from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday must be combed through in one morning, often making the Heresy late and probably too long (though I guess I could be more selective, but you know, information wants to be free or something). Maybe I should start a Kickstarter to fund a "Weekend Heresy" or like a Heresy newsmagazine. I'm sure that'll take off. 

Speaking of Kickstarter, here's one for a Bigfoot caller. No, really. Dig the developers' qualifications:

James is a fitness expert and internationally known bestselling author of over 28 books and Christopher is a former actor that now runs an ad agency and software development company.  

The wife and I saw the documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer this weekend, and I highly recommend it. The footage is absolutely remarkable, as is learning about the ins and outs of how "justice" was dispensed to these arts-activists. Amnesty International is circulating a new petition on behalf of the two members still in prison. Their case is among those highlighted on our own Campaign for Free Expression.

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RIDDLEculous

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 19, 2013

What is the difference between a skeptic and a free lunch?

Why Everything Deepak Chopra Says Can Be Ignored

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

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

"I'm an atheist and I'm embarrassed." So opens a piece at Jezebel by Lindy West, asking atheist not to be "dicks":

Religion is awful in a lot of ways, yes. But that doesn't mean you have to be awful too. . . . [T]his article isn't about forgiving or ignoring all of the atrocities—overt and covert—that religion sows. It's about being kind to individual human beings.  

Matt Dillahunty picks West's article apart, concludes she must have no experience with the movement or in engaging with theists:

Beliefs matter because they inform actions and actions have consequences. Caring only about actions is akin to only treating the symptoms. 

Liz Cheney is running for the Senate from Wyoming, and Ryan Koronowski rounds up some of her best/worst science-denying gems

Do You Have a License for That Rabbit?

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

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

Rev. James Martin attempts to clear up that whole tweet-your-way-out-of-Purgatory thing.  

On June 24, the Apostolic Penitentiary (the Vatican office that deals with matters concerning sin,) issued a document that said the faithful who attend the upcoming World Youth Day in Brazil would receive a “plenary indulgence” for their efforts during pilgrimage. . . . At the end of the document, the Vatican noted that it was not just pilgrims to whom this applied, but another, newer, group: those who might participate “with due devotion, via the new means of social communication.”

You want more videos from Women in Secularism 2? Of course you do. And this pair comes with the announcement that CFI is in the early planning stages for 2014's Women in Secularism 3

Carl Zimmer in SciAm reports on research showing that "[biological] complexity can arise by other means [than Darwinian selection]—as a side effect, for instance—even without natural selection to promote it." 

Mehta’s Not Too Friendly to Pierce Prison Religion Info Embargo

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
July 17, 2013

"Friendly Atheist" blogger Hemant Mehta wasn't too friendly to use the Freedom of Information Act to shake loose bombshell data on the religious affiliations of inmates in the Federal prison system. This pierces (but does not completely shatter) what I believe has been a six-decade embargo by prison administrators to hold back information on how many prisoners are or aren't religious.

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“Oz”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 17, 2013

A fantasy adventure, Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to the 1939 movie classic, The Wizard of Oz (itself based on the 1900 children’s novel by L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz).

Zero Point Zero Seven Percent

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

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

Research partly funded by CFI and conducted by Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar at Trinity College, has a brace of fascinating findings on the views of Millennials:

By relatively large pluralities, the students say that economic inequality is a major issue in the U.S. They strongly believe in freedom of expression, and support same-sex marriage and reproductive rights as well as controls on the sale of handguns. The college students, known as Generation Y or the Millennial Generation, say assisted suicide for the terminally ill should be legalized and they do not believe that immigrants threaten American jobs. 

The full American Religion Identification Survey (ARIS) study is here as a PDF

England is about to enact marriage equality after passage in the House of Commons. 

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At Least No One Fell into Orbit

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

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

So, ABC done did it, it hired anti-vax crusader Jenny McCarthy to be one of the hosts of The View. James Poniewozik at Time nails it

[P]ersuading parents that needed vaccines cause autism isn’t just a zany, oh-no-she-didn’t opinion. It’s wrong. . . . The View’s Sherri Shepherd may once have wondered if the world might be flat, but at least no one fell into orbit as a result. Vaccines are actually a matter of life and death.

Emily Willingham at Forbes shakes her head:

Unlike some folks, I don’t doubt that McCarthy could be intelligent, serious, and outrageous. She’s been smart enough to parlay a background in—what, exactly?—into fame and a rather mystifying clamor from some quarters to hear and see more of her. . . . What we’d like to see, before McCarthy joins “The View” . . . is for her to chill her vaccine and autism stance and publicly state what the evidence demonstrates: She was wrong about both. 

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Atheist Airplanes vs. the Angels

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

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

Zimmerman thinks it was "God's plan" for him to kill Trayvon. God needs to rethink some of his plans.

CFI CEO Ron Lindsay joined the panel on HuffPost Live to talk about the unceasing (and rather muddled) search for proof of God's existence.  

Congratulations to James Randi who just married Devyi Pena, his partner of 27 years. 

Gary Wills on the complicated politics and symbolism of turning popes into saints. 

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The New ‘Best Case’ For Psychics: Did ‘Intuitive Visions’ Locate Missing Boy?

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

The remarkable case of a missing California boy whose body was apparently located by a psychic is making headlines across the country as the 'best case' for psychics. But is it? 

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Two Heffernans in One Heresy

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

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

Malala Yousafzai will address the UN today, and moments ago she was greeted by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Michelle Boorstein explores how the very word "religion" has become problematic, even to believers. 

The CFI Hammer of Reason™ is not done with you yet, Google! Go see our action alert and tell the folks in Mountain View to check their consciences and stop funding climate change deniers. 

PayPal Me for Magic Missile

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

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

UN: Knock-knock.

Vatican: Who's there?

UN:
 United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Vatican:
 "United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child" who? . . .

Go Home, “First Things.” You’re Drunk.

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

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

The CFI Office of Public Policy brought the Hammer of Reason™ down on Google for sponsoring events for climate change deniers like Sen. James Inhofe:

Whatever other interests Google is pursuing in funding these groups and individuals, it is engaging in a malevolent act by aiding those who are dedicated to misleading the public regarding matters of scientific consensus 

James Temple at the San Francisco Chronicle picks up the story (gets a little quote from me) and comes down just as hard...

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Firefighter’s “Miracle Recovery”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 09, 2013

At 6:54 a.m., December 29, 1995, the roof of a burning house collapsed on Buffalo fireman Donald J. Herbert. Before being rescued he had been starved of oxygen for some six minutes, resulting in brain damage. For almost the next decade he was in a minimally responsive state, unable to communicate effectively.

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There’s No Snow Where You’re Going!!!

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

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

Robert Long at The American Conservative looks at the nonbelief of conservative fixture George Will, who "combines unbelief with a fondness for religion, not a fear of it." CFI, by the way, gets a nod.

The Decatur Daily of Alabama looks at the crisis in Egypt, takes lessons for the U.S., and reaches a conclusion you wouldn't expect from an Alabama newspaper:

While the effort is constantly difficult when a majority of the people in a democracy subscribe to the same faith, government should not be used as a tool for religion. Both institutions suffer from the combination. Much political acrimony in the United States today arises from this tension. . . . The issue is not whether Christian beliefs are right or wrong, but whether government is the proper institution to promote them.

The Sermon on the Mount Makes for Lousy Foreign Policy

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

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

Rabbi David Wolpe (famous in our circles for his debates with various secu-lebrities) causes a stir as he determines that his conservative synagogue will perform same-sex marriages.

Both Science Friday, with help from Paul Offit; and On the Media, with help from Ben Goldacre, take a skeptical look at alternative medicine.   

Lots of Pope action today. Francis "sped two of his predecessors toward sainthood" with approvals for Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. After elevating these guys to celestial awsomeness to hang with God, he then tells priests to stop driving flashy cars.

You Aren’t Religious, But Who Are You?

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
July 05, 2013

Just when you thought that categorizing types of nonreligious people was getting old....

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Your Atheism Has Been Rated “AAA”

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

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

I was horrified this morning, as I clicked on a news item in my Twitter stream about the beheading of a boy in Ghana, whose stepfather allegedly thought he was a wizard or something. That's horrifying enough, but the article also contained, much to my shock, two photographs of the body. (No, I am not providing a link.) I turned away as quickly as I could, but at this moment, and I suspect for some time, that image is now seared onto my brain, and my heart beats faster and more nervously every time it crosses my awareness. . . .

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Freeloaders, Trees, and Lonely Rocks

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

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

RNS's Kimberly Winston looks at the growing phenomenon of homeschooling for humanists.

Luke Dittrich of Esquire publishes a big takedown of neurosurgeon Eben Alexander's accounts of the afterlife in Proof of Heaven. The article is behind a paywall, alas, but it's only two bucks. 

Indonesia's parliament passes a "Mass Organization Law" which, among other things, "prohibits groups from committing blasphemy." 

The Golden Rule(s)

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 02, 2013

The Golden Rule—a common-sense ethical principle based on mutual empathy—is shared by numerous religious and philosophical traditions. For example, there is Judaism’s Torah verse: “. . . Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). The popular Christian version (paraphrasing Jesus from Matthew 7:12) is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And so on—in Islam, Buddhism, and many others, including Humanism. (See “Golden Rule,” online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule.)

Tri-Sarah-Tops

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

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

I gotta tell ya, folks. The death of Google Reader has added a dose of entropy to The Morning Heresy that it did not need. Yet I plow ahead.  

CFI's Michael De Dora judges the new, final rules laid down by the HHS on contraceptive coverage exemptions with a very nuanced-but-unmistakable "meh."

Your wrenching, unbearable wait is over! Videos from Women in Secularism 2 are starting to be posted online. (It takes some work to get these up, folks, so you need to have a wee bit of patience.) We've got up now Rebecca GoldsteinKatha Pollitt, and Susan Jacoby.

Center for Inquiry Mixed on Finalized Birth Control Rule

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
July 01, 2013

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday issued a finalized birth control rule, which requires all employers — apart from houses of worship and religiously affiliated organizations — to provide employees contraceptive coverage without charging a co-payment. The announcement marks the end of a nearly two-year regulatory battle between HHS officials and advocacy groups, including the Center for Inquiry (CFI).

A Whole Lot of Open Rebellion

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

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

In what might be the largest political demonstration in human history, millions and millions of Egyptians take to the streets to protest President Mohamed Morsi and the power wielded by the Muslim Brotherhood. 

CFI-NYC was out in force for the NYC Pride Parade! This post's image is of the branch's fearless leader, Syd LeRoy, brandishing the Big Blue Meatball in joyful support of the event.

IHEU has an update on persecuted Bangladeshi atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin (part of our Campaign for Free Expression):

The court decided yesterday that Asif could be released on health grounds, his lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua confirmed, after suffering deteriorating health during nearly three months of incarceration. Formal charges and a possible trial are still pending for later in the year. 

Also from our Campaign, Asia Bibi, a young Pakistani girl accused of blasphemy, is reportedly safe in Canada

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