Blog Archives for August 2013

Religion is the Opposite of Humanism

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
August 31, 2013

Can humanism and religion sometimes agree on ethics? Sure, but not because religion got there first. 

A Fatwa to Kill da Wabbit

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

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

Christian research organization the Barna Group does a study on Amercians's perceptions of the Bible, which among other things finds that "antagonism" to the Bible is ticking up, and 54% agree that the Bible and politics "do not mix."

Saudi Arabia's cabinet passes a ban on domestic violence at home and at the workplace. 

Member of a Hare Krishna sect in Hawaii is arrested for threatening to behead Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. 

The IRS recognizes all legally married same-sex couples for tax purposes, regardless of the state in which they reside.

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Men are from Mars, Women…also from Mars!

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

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

An arrest is made in the murder of Indian skeptic activist Narendra Dabholkar.

An appeals court backs the Ohio hospital that wanted to treat a girl with leukemia, whose Amish parents refused chemotherapy for her.

Wow: a not-crazy theory says that life on Earth may have originated on Mars after hitching a ride on meteorites. 

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”—A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 29, 2013

Lee Daniels’ The Butler, though awkwardly titled, is a first-rate movie that tells the story of one of the greatest achievements of American history, the Civil Rights Movement. It is seen through the eyes of a White House butler, whose service extended through eight presidents, from Eisenhower to Reagan.

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Science in Scare Quotes

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

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

50 years ago today was the March on Washington and Dr. King gave that speech.

Persecuted Bangladeshi atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin has been reaching out, despite the ongoing danger to his life and freedom. Here he is talking to Austin Dacey and to Hemant Mehta. Michael De Dora, our public policy director who runs the Campaign for Free Expression, has been working with Asif, and we expect to hear more from him. 

Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Dan Mozena, is trying to heavily downplay the role of religion in the country's recent turmoil. 

The CFI On Campus crew hung out Google style for their second On Air Session last night, talking Light the Night and Hug an Atheist.

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Rhythmic Fluctuations of Cerebrospinal Fluid for Fun and Profit

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

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

Kimberly Winston gives feature treatment to the Freethought Trail, a project of the Council for Secular Humanism, which is a self-guided tour through the sites of historic importance to the secularist cause in the 19th century.  

Ebook service Smashwords tampers with an atheist client's book about God's non-existence, sneaking in religious material, and refusing to own up. 

Tonight, tonight, toniiiiight, oh-oooohhhhh, we're gonna light the night! Tonight, oh-ooooohhhh. (Ahem. That is, tonight at 8pm ET the CFI On Campus On-Air Session will cover Light the Night and Hug an Atheist Week.)

Update: India’s “Human Torch” Baby

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 26, 2013

To recap: News reports (e.g., Times of India, August 13, 2013) told of an infant from rural India who had suffered four instances of what some believed was “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC—a phenomenon not accepted by science, although believed by a few crank scientists).

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BMI and the Argument from Antiquity Fallacy

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
August 26, 2013

Is pointing out that a medical procedure has been used by doctors for 150 years an example of a logical fallacy? Maybe, or maybe not...

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Stop Oppressing My Fake Medicine

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

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

Dylan Matthews at WaPo's Wonkblog expands on Matthew Yglesias's call to tax churches, and highlights Ryan Cragun's research for Free Inquiry, in which it is estimated that American taxpayers are subsidizing religion to the tune of over $80 billion a year (Matthews' revised number). The same study is cited in a Star-Ledger editorial, though not by name.

This is pretty big: 9th Circuit Court says California has to compensate an atheist drug offender for sending him back to prison because he refused a religiously-based addiction treatment. It's this kind of thing that makes things like the Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) program important.

CFI's Michael De Dora pens an article on the importance of storytelling in secular activism for the Dawkins Foundation's newsletter

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Skepticism and Humanism - Allies?

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
August 23, 2013

If you could go back in time to ask Bertrand Russell, what would he say?

This is Part of the Weirding Way

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

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

Yesterday, CFI made known its condemnation of violence against religious groups in Egypt:

No person should be targeted for violence because of his or her religious affiliation. As atheists and humanists, though we may disagree strongly with the beliefs of other groups, we wholeheartedly reject oppression and violence carried out against those who hold those beliefs. Freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right.

Hemant Mehta notes that our words are "backed by action," and tells the rest of the skepto-atheist community that "we ought to be among the leading voices condemning a real assault on religious freedom." 

I was the guest pundit on yesterday's episode of Tech News Today on the TWiT network, and it was pretty fun. Also, the host referred to me as the Kwisatz Haderach.

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The Pledge Issue: Consider It Again For The First Time

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
August 22, 2013

I probably don't have to tell most readers of this blog that many nonreligious individuals strongly object to state laws that mandate recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. I probably also don't have to tell most readers that all legal challenges to these laws have heretofore failed. However, there may now be at least a slim chance that this losing streak will come to an end.

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From Oliver Sacks’ Lips to the (ex) Pope’s Ear

Hollywood Reality Check with Jim Underdown
August 22, 2013

 

I just wanted to drop you a quick note after I read that you had a “mystical” experience when God told you to quit your job.

 

The Sluggish Pundit’s Dream

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

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

A new poll shows that a whopping 70% of Americans are against vouchers for private and religious schools. Well, that's what we think too, and we said so:

Voucher programs are a violation of our founding secular principles, and it is heartening to know that the American people see through its proponents’ façade of reform. 

Holy crap, skin cells can be turned into egg and sperm cellsTweets our boss Ron Lindsay:

Now that we know skin cells have the potential to become babies, will Catholic Church prohibit scratching?  

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Reality Distortion Field of Dreams

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

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

CFI files an amicus brief in the Massachusetts case about the Pledge of Allegiance, and it's not the usual "violates the First Amendment" argument. 

Coptic Christians face a wave of violence in Egypt at the hands of Morsi-supporting Islamists.

The American Muslim Political Action Committee will hold a mass demonstration in Washington on September 11 to protest "religious profiling."

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One of the Most Wonderful Soldiers of Rationalism

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

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

I'm sorry to open the Heresy with some grisly news from India. Here's the IHEU:

It is with deep shock and sadness that we report the assassination this morning (Tuesday, 20 August) of one of India's most renowned rationalist and Humanist leaders, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar.

He was reportedly shot four times by two men on a motorbike this morning on Omkarweshwar bridge in Pune, Maharashtra state. He was reportedly taking his daily morning walk when he was assassinated, a route that may have been known to his attackers.

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Double Stuf Conspiracy

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

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

Brian Regal in NJ's Star-Ledger looks at the very non-supernatural roots of the Jersey Devil legend:

The Leeds family does occupy the center of the story, but they were not stereotyped, superstitious rural people. They were politically active religious pioneers, authors and publishers. We have forgotten that the Jersey Devil legend — originally the Leeds Devil — began as a cruel taunt against them, not because of a monstrous birth, but because they had the cultural misfortune of joining the wrong side. 

(I'm from this area, and as a kid, my grandfather delighted in successfully scaring the crap out of me with tales of the Jersey Devil.)

The Baltimore Sun covers pet psychics, and gets badly-needed perspective from our own Joe Nickell.

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Special Stomach Virus Edition

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

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

So yesterday there was no Heresy because I was looking after my sick baby daughter. Well, the Heresy is late today because she was kind enough to lend me her stomach virus. The adventure continues. 

Now how cool is this? CFI On Campus does its first On-Air Session with campus leaders from across the country. Session 1 is on gearing up for the new school year. 

And there's lots more from On Campus. Karyn Spory at the Columbia Tribune highlights CFI On Campus affiliate MU SASHA for its recent Free Expression award from CFI.   

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“Human Torch” Baby: SHC or Abuse?

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 15, 2013

According to news reports (e.g., timesofindia.india-times.com, August 13, 2013), a baby boy from a village in Tamil Nadu, India, “caught fire” on four occasions. Since so many incidents were unlikely to be accidents, some persons were suggesting the case might be one of “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC). I received a request to “please help this child” from a young Indian man (who sent me the link to the story) and also a request for an interview by a reporter from MSN.com, Dustin Seibert. I told the latter I was concerned about the child’s safety—though not from SHC. (Interview online at news.msn.com/rumors/rumor-baby-suffer-from-spontaneous-combustion; August 14, 2013.)

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Ban on “Pulpit Politicking” Protects Taxpayers, Religious Believers

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
August 14, 2013

Religious leaders today released a new report that calls for an end to the ban on tax-exempt organizations, such as houses of worship and nonprofit groups, engaging in partisan political activities. But, despite what its opponents claim, the ban is based on sound reasoning.

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Get a Pope (Sha Na-Na Na, Sha Na-Na Na-Na)

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

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

NPR's Mile Johnson tells the story of civil rights activist William Lewis Moore, believed to be an atheist, who was killed 50 years ago on a long walk to deliver a letter to Mississippi's governor. 

At Friendly Atheist, I discover a rare example of sound advice for Christian-atheist child-raising.

Wait wait wait. The science textbooks in Texas are...okay?

Proof of Rat Heaven

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

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

University of Michigan scientists poke around some rat brains for EEG signals, and found a huge burst of activity just at the point of death. Proof of Rat Heaven? The opposite.

USA Today comes out against businesses claiming exemptions from Obamacare's contraceptive mandate:

Ultimately, the issue is one of balance. The effect of health insurance on business owners is indirect. Employees may or may not use insurance to pay for birth control, just as they may or may not use their salary to pay for something that would violate the company owners' faith.

The circumstance might be discomforting. But the alternative — granting religious exemptions to private organizations — is more troubling. It would be open to abuse, putting the government in the position of determining which business owners were sufficiently religious. 

What I Wrote To Scientific American

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
August 12, 2013

On August 8, I wrote to the relevant editors at Scientific American after Dr. Karen Stollznow posted her blog piece about sexual harassment. I did so because Dr. Stollznow’s piece contained several inaccuracies, which were repeated in blogs and then showed up in letters to me. These inaccuracies are damaging to the reputation of the Center for Inquiry, an organization to which I have a fiduciary obligation. I asked Scientific American to issue an apology and make three specific corrections. I did not ask for the post to be removed. In my view, it would have been preferable if it had remained posted, but with the corrections. Scientific American decided otherwise. My email to Scientific American appears below.

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Dr. Porter and His Healing Oil

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 12, 2013

In doing some research (for my “Historical Sketches” column in my hometown newspaper) I unexpectedly came across a mid-1920s photo showing small tin signs for “Dr. Porter’s Healing Oil” affixed to the front of a store warehouse. I wondered: just who was Dr. Porter, and what was the story behind his medicinal product?

That Near-Death Experience Sounds Awesome

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

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

Michael De Dora calls out the administration's amicus brief to SCOTUS in support of legislative prayers for its "spotty reasoning."

This actually happened: Tennessee judge orders a mother to change her baby's name ("Messiah") because "it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ." 

Charter schools. Held in churches. Discuss

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Why the Obama Administration is Wrong About Legislative Prayer

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
August 09, 2013

The Obama administration has filed an amicus brief in the upcoming Supreme Court case Town of Greece v. Galloway, claiming that prayers before legislative meetings are and should remain legal.

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The Man Who Has Stolen the Straw

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

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

The Obama administration disappoints us beyond all measure, filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in favor of prayer at legislative sessions.

41 people in Turkey reportedly charged with "blasphemy on the religious values of a society fraction" for posts to a social network. 

There are a heck-ton of great videos from the latest Women in Secularism conference, with two new panels just posted

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Who Are You Calling Porous-Bordered?

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

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

The State Department formally launches its  Office of Faith Based Community Initiatives. John Kerry says something that is true for me as well:

[I]f I went back to college today, I think I would probably major in comparative religion, because that’s how integrated it is in everything that we are working on and deciding and thinking about in life today. 

Former CFIer Austin Dacey has reservations:

Constitutional or not, official interfacing with “faith-based organizations” will constitute a troubling form of government endorsement: the defining of some communities, among various porous-bordered normative and discursive communities, as “religions” and the anointing of some individuals as recognized spokespersons for those communities. 

Domestically, the creaky gears of government are moving in making changes to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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Unidentified Flying Spellcheck

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

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

Excellent news: DC's Mayor Vince Gray signs into law a bill that allows for "civil celebrants," aka Secular Celebrants, to officiate and solemnize marriages in the nation's capital. CFI's Michael De Dora and Melody Hensley were on hand for the signing, and Melody got a pen

Martin S. Pribble launches the Not Alone Project for nonbelievers, explaining:

My hope is to create a place where the non-believers stories can be published, in a completely safe environment, which doesn’t judge its participants in any way. This is an internet “safehouse” for those who fear coming out, an a place to share stories, freedoms and inspirations that atheism allows you. Those who publish their work here have the choice of remaining anonymous, or publishing their names in their articles. 

I love this picture: CFI board member Leonard Tramiel talks astronomy with the kids at Camp Inquiry. 

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Florida on High Xindi Alert

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

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

Hey, you hear the big news about The Washington Post? It came out against Virginia's religious exemption for homeschooling! Oh, and I guess there was this other thing where it was bought by Jeff Bezos. Pretty sure those two things aren't related.

Point of Inquiry classic episodes are streaming in as we lay the groundwork for its phoenix-like rebirth. This week, we have a 2006 interview with Susan Jacoby by DJ Grothe on America's freethought heritage. 

The town of Greece, NY gets support for its city council prayers from 31 U.S. Senators (30 GOPs plus Mary Landrieu of course), who filed an amicus brief to their Supreme Court case. 

Croppies Lie Down

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

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

So former Rep. Barney Frank is an atheist. Now you tell us, Barney. 

Avery Thompson writes of the "10 best things" from the CFI Student Leadership conference, and somehow omits one particular bespectacled neurotic who will nonetheless find a way to forgive (and who otherwise pretty much agrees with his list). One of the folks on the list, James Croft, is coming to CFI-DC this weekend.

Ian Pollock asks a hum-dinger of a question in a fascinating post: Do the compromises that make up "secularism" mean that the whole enterprise is, though necessary, without principle? (h/t to Robert Long

Four Republican former heads of the EPA take to NYT to call for action on climate change.  

Why Parents Don’t Vaccinate Their Children—And What We Can Do

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

There are several reasons why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children, though most of them come down to misinformation from anti-vaccine advocates. With the recent addition of Jenny McCarthy to the popular ABC television show The View, many people are wondering what effect, if any, this will have on vaccination rates. However there are some strategies than can fight the misinformation.

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If the Borg and the Clone Wars Had a Baby

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

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

CFI has been challenging the folks at Google to examine their consciences, and stop giving financial support to climate science deniers. Apparently scientists within Google feel the same way

Daniel Fincke brings together a panel of secular activists to discuss the internal controversy over the FFRF suit to remove the Star of David from the Ohio Statehouse's Holocaust Memorial. CFI's Michael De Dora was among them.

And look how busy Michael is: Here's the Advocacy Update for the Office of Public Policy for July. 

Gary Gutting at the Times makes what appears to be a serious case for the existence of Zeus. Hemant is aghast, and I wonder if he's just trolling us

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Firewalker Willey Cartooned!

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 01, 2013

Skepticism’s great friend, David Willey—who became famous as the “Mad Scientist” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno—has been featured in the nationally syndicated comic strip, Jump Start, drawn by Robb Armstrong.

I Hope You’re Not Squeezing Their Liver or Pancreas

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

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

CFI's Debbie Goddard joined Sikivu Hutchinson, Jamila Bey (both Women in Secularism alums) and Ronnelle Adams on HuffPost Live to talk about atheism in the African American community.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reminds Saudi Arabia of its obligations under international human rights treaties, as it condemns the persecution (and coming physical abuse) of dissenting activist Raif Badawi, convicted of blasphemy.  

Aasia Bibi, accused of blasphemy in Pakistan and held in a women's prison, is in terrible danger, as security is weak and she is targeted for violence from both within and without the prison. 

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