Blog Archives for May 2014

Molded into a Heffalump

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 30, 2014

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

Turkey's high court reverses the country's ban on YouTube, saying the ban violates free expression (yay Turkey!), but then a Twitter user is sentenced to 15 months in jail for having a Twitter handle with "Allah" in it and doing a satirical take on the deity (boo Turkey!).  

After PETA ties dairy to autism, Arit John at The Wire sums up the mess:

The problem — other than the offensive play on the "Got Milk?" slogan — is that the research available has been discredited by at least two independent overviews. A 2010 overview by the University of Texas at Austin of 14 studies on the link between autism and casein- and gluten-free diets found that the "overall study quality was poor" and only the least scientific studies implied the diet improved behavior. 

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These Cyborgs for God

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 29, 2014

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

Alas, when it comes to U.S. currency, in God, it is presumed, we all trust. Alas.  

The U.S. State Department isn't convinced that Nigeria's government knows where the kidnapped girls are.  

These are not necessarily in our skepto-atheist wheelhouse, but two big things in the tech and culture spaces weigh on the Heretic's mind...

The Information

Access Points with Timothy Binga
May 28, 2014

The advent of the Information Revolution that began in the late twentieth century caused such a significant change in the way we work, play, and even just exist on a day-to-day basis that some context is helpful to understand how these changes came about. Technology changed the way we work: high-tech service jobs are now more prevalent than manufacturing jobs, which were created as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The sharing of information over distances of both time and location are the focus of James Gleick’s The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood (New York: Pantheon, 2011).

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Eaten by the Shark You Jumped

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 28, 2014

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

Lindsay Beyerstein brings much-needed skeptical perspective to the issue of capital punishment with special guest Dahlia Lithwick of Slate on Point of Inquiry

CFI's international programs director Bill Cooke evaluates the conflict in Ukraine, and sees religion as a huge factor.

Sarah Posner blogs-heads with Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, and in this clip, he talks about his attempts to get the Obama administration to make good on its promises regarding faith-based initiatives. Posner's tweet has a spoiler about whether they did.

Civil War in Ukraine, with Religion as the Fault Line

Guest Blog from Bill Cooke
May 27, 2014

There is not much doubt now that Ukraine is falling into civil war. Like the English and Scots, Ukrainians and Russians have lived together for centuries. They have intermarried, shared political highs and lows and come to know each other very closely. But that hasn’t meant they’ve liked each other. Only in the area of religion is there any significant difference. 

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10 Happy Dancing Lepers

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 27, 2014

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

Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times came to the Women in Secularism 3 conference, and came away with stories of women leaving Islam for atheism

Amy Davis Roth took the opportunity of Women in Secularism to do some portrait-taking (and a few CFIers are in there).  

CNN.com looks at the challenges faced by atheists in the Bible Belt

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The Morning [CENSORED LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU]

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 23, 2014

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

We learned from Right Wing Watch and Ed Brayton that the Pat Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice has been talking out of both sides of its mouth on blasphemy laws, condemning them in one place and endorsing them in others. I take them to task:

Now we see that for the ACLJ and its affiliates [free expression] extends only to Christians. For dissidents in Russia, be they non-Christian, gay, atheist, or simply at odds with the regime, CFI will seek to defend their freedom of expression; the ACLJ and its friends will work to see them behind bars. 

Robert Mackey at NYT on Twitter agreeing to censor "blasphemous" tweets in Pakistan:

This censorship comes as challenges to Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law have become increasingly deadly, amid a flurry of arrests, killings and assassination attempts on secularists.

The ACLJ’s Hypocrisy on Blasphemy Laws

Guest Blog from Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
May 22, 2014

Combatting the global epidemic of blasphemy laws, apostasy laws, and other draconian measures that severely restrict free expression, is a core part of CFI’s mission. For some of us, myself included, it’s the most important work we do, fighting to free those being persecuted for expressing their beliefs, and working to curtail the laws that enable this kind of oppression. And while it can’t be at the top of every group’s agenda, I often take for granted that everyone in the U.S. at least generally agrees with us: that free expression is a universal human right. But leave it to the religious right: They never fail to disappoint.

I Hereby Declare War on Peace and Happiness!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 22, 2014

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

Kimberly Winston reports on the efforts of CFI and its interfaith coalition partners to keep a prayer plaque out of the World War II memorial, here at the Washington Post.

(Winston also interviews Zeke Piestrup, who has a new documentary film about Mr. Apocalypse himself, the late Harold Camping.) 

Here's a new visualization of an old problem: Atheists portrayed as jerks and weirdos on TV. Hmm.

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Rheumatic Cures

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
May 21, 2014

The adjective rheumatic pertains to rheumatism, a general, if a rather archaic term describing such acute and chronic conditions as inflammation, joint pain, muscle stiffness and soreness. “Rheumatism” once referred to arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, fibromyalgia, degenerative joint disease, and various other conditions (Taber’s 2001, 1806–1807).

A Rush to Embrace the Stupid

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 21, 2014

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

CFI has joined a coalition of religious and secular groups asking Congress not to add a prayer to the WWII Memorial

Sharon Hill writes at Skeptical Inquirer about attending a conference mixing academics with the paranormal, and she comes away better for it:

[J]ust after I had been outed as one of the “skeptics” in the crowd, one lady rather brusquely asked, “So you’re one of the skeptics? Why are you here?” For the same reason you are, lady, to learn and explore evidence and ideas. ... It's impossible to get that deeper concept if you are prejudiced against the field entirely. Likewise, if you pigeonhole skeptics and close off the skeptical commentary, you risk continuing to waste effort, make mistakes, and fail to progress.

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A Lot of Things That I Don’t Like

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 20, 2014

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

The first of the Women in Secularism III reflections start to come in, starting with this enthusiastic recap from Jim Newman at Skeptic Money

The photos of the conference from pals-of-CFI Brian Engler and Bruce Press are up to browse, enjoy, and humorously caption. 

Sarah Jones of Americans United (who was a speaker at WiS and was awesome) writes at Faith Street about identifying specifically as a "None"...

India Votes, with Consequences for Secularism

Guest Blog from Bill Cooke
May 19, 2014

The election just held in India, the world’s largest secular democracy, should attract more attention than it has. With a voting population of more than 800 million people, the election takes five weeks to complete, broken into nine phases. It has resulted in a new Prime Minister for India: the BJP leader Narendra Modi. 

LARPing in the Sky with Diamonds

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 19, 2014

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

Women in Secularism III was a huge success. Inspiring, enlightening, some even shocking and challenging. Expect to hear more from us on all the great stuff that went on at the conference. In the mean time, check out some photos of the event by Bruce Press, a member of our DC branch (Brian Engler will have some great ones soon, too). Also, Chris Stedman has an interview with conference speaker Barbara Ehrenreich

CFI responds strongly to the death sentence put on Sudan's Meriam Yeyha Ibrahim Ishag for apostasy with a demand for her release sent to the Sudanese UN ambassador, and further reaction in our released statement:

Religious belief must never be coerced and free expression must never be punished, through threat of imprisonment, violence, or any other means. This cannot go unanswered, and the world will not stand for it. 

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Sad Goat Man

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 16, 2014

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

Women in Secularism III kicks off today! Kimberly Winston previews the conference with a piece at RNS with CFI's own Debbie Goddard and Melody Hensley. We'll be tweeting about the conference all weekend with the hashtag #WiSCFI, though expect that some unpleasant folks will also be chiming in with same, so arm your block and mute buttons.

CFI responded to the death sentence of pregnant Sudanese woman Meriam Yeyha Ibrahim Ishag, charged with apostasy for marrying a Christian man, by reaching out to the Sudanese government and demanding she be freed. In our press release, we say:

Religious belief must never be coerced and free expression must never be punished, through threat of imprisonment, violence, or any other means. This cannot go unanswered, and the world will not stand for it. 

Che, Puss in Boots, and the Pope

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 15, 2014

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

A group of UN Special Rapporteurs (a gaggle? a pride? a rookery?) pull no punches against Saudi Arabia and their grotesque persecution of Raif Badawi:

"This outrageous conviction should be overturned and Mr. Badawi immediately released. ... Mr. Badawi is a prisoner of conscience, who has been convicted for peacefully expressing his views on religious and other issues." ... The UN experts condemned the cruelty of the punishment and recalled that such attacks against the physical and psychological integrity of a person represent an affront to the dignity inherent to all human beings.

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One Non-Abrahamic Lump

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 14, 2014

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

Bill Nye feels strongly that Skeptical Inquirer is an important tool in helping to change the world.

Lindsey Graham is leading the Senate charge for an outrageously restrictive abortion ban. Maybe he's running for president. 

A pregnant Sudanese woman faces 100 lashes and a possible death sentence for apostasy, unless she recants her Christianity for Islam.

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From Water Therapy to Lasers

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 13, 2014

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

Women in Secularism III is mere days away! I'm, like, even going to leave my house to be there! You don't want to miss that, right? (Please only don't-miss that from a respectful distance.) 

Donald Prothero sounds the alarm on science denialism on Point of Inquiry with Lindsay Beyerstein (who will also be at WiS).

The latest issue of Free Inquiry is hitting newsstands now, with fascinating research by Barry Kosmin, who says the U.S. is undergoing a major shift as a "secular constituency" emerges.

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A Pilot Comments on UFOs

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
May 12, 2014

James McGaha and I have another investigative article in Skeptical Inquirer—indeed another SI cover story. Titled “Mount Rainier: ‘Saucer’ Magnet” (May/June 2014), it presents the solutions to two important UFO cases occurring at or near Rainier: Kenneth Arnold’s “flying saucers” of 1947 and a lesser-known cold case of 1896 (during the great “airship fever”). We also discuss how a mountain like Rainier helps to form saucer-shaped, lenticular clouds—sometimes seeming almost as active as a bubble machine.

Rekindle the Devil’s Image

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 12, 2014

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

Responding to the Washington Post's uncritical piece on alt-med last month, our boss Ron Lindsay pens a letter to the editor taking on a specific claim made about homeopathy, and the Post runs it:

[H]omeopathy is a pseudoscience, based on nebulous notions developed long before modern scientific research. Homeopaths maintain that the more dilute a substance is, the more potent it is as a remedy. Not surprisingly, controlled studies have not shown that homeopathic drugs are more effective than a placebo. 

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Amazing Spider-Man 2

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
May 10, 2014

Like many teenage boys I was a fan of comic books, and my favorite superhero was Spider-Man... Sadly the film version leaves much to be desired. 

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Bad Luck

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 08, 2014

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

As we reported yesterday, Saudi dissident Raif Badawi has had his sentence for "insulting Islam" heavily increased to 10 years and 1000 lashes. We are working this case very hard, and you can help us tell the world about it through Facebook and Twitter (#IStandwithRaif), and tell the Saudi government what you think. 

And there's more awful news...

Raif Badawi sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
May 07, 2014

Raif Badawi, founder of the website Liberal Saudi Network, has been sentenced to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and fined one million riyal (USD $266,631) for insulting Islam. 

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They Would See Us as Bacteria

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 07, 2014

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

Terrible news: Raid Badawi, the persecuted Saudi dissident, facing a horrific penalty for "insulting Islam" and perhaps even death for apostasy, has had his sentence made even harsher: 10 years in prison (from 7), 1000 lashes (from 600), and a fine equal to about $267,000 US. We'll have more on this soon. CFI and allies held a protest outside the Saudi embassy for him this past Saturday, in concert with other protests around the world.

CFI is urging lawmakers in Ohio to nix a resolution that would endorse the work of religion and ideology-driven "Crisis Pregnancy Centers":

[C]ertainly you can see that the Ohio state government should not endorse or financially support CPCs, which mislead the public, spread dangerous anti-scientific views, and advance sectarian religious beliefs. 

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Khuy, Pizda, Ebat’, and Blyad

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 06, 2014

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

The Supreme Court completely blows it. In a 5-4 decision, the Court rules in favor of sectarian prayer at government legislative functions. CFI's response is to call the decision "ill-reasoned," "hostile to the rights of religious minorities," and "dangerous," among other unflattering things. CNN notes our reaction, including our boss Ron Lindsay's statement that "those of us who believe in a secular government must redouble our legal and advocacy efforts. The New York Times called the decision "lamentable."  

We agreed with the dissent of Justice Kagan:

[M]onth in and month out for over a decade, prayers steeped in only one faith, addressed toward members of the public, commenced meetings to discuss local affairs and distribute government benefits. In my view, that practice does not square with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share in her government.

Calling the Court's bluff, the Satanists are ready.

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SCOTUS Rules for Legislative Prayer, CFI Says Court Appears ‘Hostile’ to Religious Minorities

Guest Blog from Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
May 05, 2014

The Supreme Court decided 5-4 in favor of sectarian legislative prayer today in the case of Greece v. GallowayIn CFI's official statement, we said, "this ill-reasoned and constitutionally infirm decision sets a dangerous precedent for the blending of religion and government, and sends a message of exclusion to those who do not follow the majoritarian belief system." Here's what our president and CEO Ron Lindsay had to say.

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Oh Variola, What Are We Going to Do With You?

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 05, 2014

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

Saturday, CFI and allies protested Saudi Arabia's persecution and imprisonment of Raif Badawi, the dissident atheist blogger. I'm told the folks inside the embassy were perturbed. Here's a couple of pics from our boss Ron Lindsay and our public policy office.  

Meanwhile, another major focus of CFI's free expression efforts, Indonesia's Alexander Aan, was profiled in the New York Times

Lindy West of Jezebel will be among the amazing speakers at Women in Secularism III (11 days away!), and she's interviewed at Skepchick as part of their series on conference speakers. 

Make sure you catch up on everything else CFI community members are up to in the latest edition of Cause & Effect.  

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Let’s Invade Puny Mars

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 02, 2014

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

Tomorrow is the demonstration at the Saudi embassy in DC for Raif Badawi, the imprisoned atheist dissident. Come and help us speak out for free expression.

Lauren Becker's National Day of Reason essay yesterday was so well-liked, we meme'd it

The Satanist monument for the Oklahoma Statehouse? It exists. And, like, wow.

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Why We Need to Lose Religion to Save America

Guest Blog from Lauren Becker
May 01, 2014

On this National Day of Reason, it’s time to remember that revolutionary ideas work better than religious ideology.

It’s 1784 and James Madison has a problem: the General Assembly of Virginia has just proposed a bill that would establish a special tax to pay for “teachers of the Christian Religion.” The bill has wide support because the Episcopal Church—the dominant church—will benefit greatly from having taxpayers pay for its teachers. Madison, however, knows better. He knows the bill is an attack on the principle of freedom of conscience and a threat to the liberties so recently wrenched from King George III. ...

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A Manifestation of a Foul Substance

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
May 01, 2014

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

It's the National Day of Reason (also the National Day of Prayer, but come on, who celebrates that?), and to mark the occasion we have a powerful piece by CFI's Lauren Becker on why we need to lose religion to save America.

Bill Nye goes on Seth Myers' show to tell the world: Don't ask me for a selfie while I'm defusing a bomb

This is like a birthday present for skeptics: Harriet Hall knocks out a pretty darn comprehensive introduction to homeopathy for Skeptical Inquirer. Of course, it has only the essence of words that were once there. I'm kidding! But seriously, here's a homeopathic cartoon

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