Blog Archives for July 2014

The Moral Hard Drive

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 31, 2014

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

CFI is officially backing a bill from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen that would expand access to contraception for women in the military and their dependents. 

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says the State Department made a glaring omission by not including Pakistan on its list of Countries of Particular Concern on the issue of religious freedom. 

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, says women should not laugh in public because it threatens their chastity. 

And I Would Rove Twenty-Five Miles

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

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

On Point of InquiryJosh Zepps talks to David Ropeik, an expert on the perception of risk, to talk about the recent spate of horrible air travel disasters and what we think of as "safe."

A blog billing itself as "liberalism's worst nightmare" (I wonder what that could be...a ban on artisanal cheeses?) really thinks we at CFI are a bunch of jerks for our Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign:

I fail to see how this campaign has anything to do with inquiry. The Center for Inquiry has already decided the issue for all of us. They’ve done the inquiring and the research, and we just need to fall in line. I’m so sick of this pompous attitude.

2 Comments

We Entertain All Complaints

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

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

The State Department releases its 2013 International Religious Freedom Report, highlighting the actions of nations of concern:

These governmental actions not only infringed on freedom of religion themselves; they often created a permissive environment for broader human rights abuses. Restrictive policies included laws criminalizing religious activities and expression, prohibitions on conversion or proselytizing, blasphemy laws, and stringent registration requirements for religious organizations. 

Meanwhile, President Obama appoints Rabbi David Saperstein as the U.S.'s ambassador for international religious freedom, making Saperstein the first non-Christian to hold the position. 

It Should Go Without Saying

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

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

As seems to always be the case, the great scramble to get everything up and running for the CFI Leadership Conference turned into a great experience of inspiration and determination for all in attendance. I had to miss the last day's events so I could be home for my daughter's second birthday, but judging from the tweet stream, there was a pretty moving lineup of presentations. Many thanks to all who attended, all who presented, and most of all to those outreachers who actually made it all happen.

Truth and Myth Behind “Magic in the Moonlight”

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
July 25, 2014

 A look at some of the real-life events and characters that inspired the new Woody Allen film Magic in the Moonlight.

Science is not a Crime

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
July 25, 2014

Not every threat to scientific progress comes from religion. Some threats are arising due to the changing nature of how science is funded and pursued. A basic institution that helped begin the scientific revolution is publishing. The changing nature of the academic climate, and publishing businesses, now threaten to undermine the way science is conducted. Science cannot proceed well without free and open access to its results, and academic publishers who put findings behind firewalls betray us all.

2 Comments

Reactionary Weirdos

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 25, 2014

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

The 2014 CFI Leadership Conference is underway, and I'm knocking out a quick Heresy here before I get back into things here at the Mothership. 

USA Today has a new piece on he-of-the-baseless-cancer-treatments, Stanislaw Burzynski, as the Texas Medical Board tries to pick up where the FDA fell down. CFI chief Ron Lindsay is quoted as the prime critic of Burzynski cheering on the Texas Board, saying, "Burzynski should not be practicing medicine. Period." 

A Cirque du Soleil of the Mind

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 24, 2014

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

I'm here at the airport getting ready to fly to Amherst and CFI's Mothership for the CFI Leadership Conference. Where we confer. About leadership. Anyway, I understand people really like it. Especially the YOUTH. So, there may or may not be a Heresy tomorrow, we'll have to see how things go.

So here's the thing: There was some really excellent news that happened a few weeks ago, but with all the other things going on, only yesterday did we have a chance to actually make a thing of it. But thing-make we finally did, announcing that our own besuited public policy chief Michael De Dora was elected president of the UN's NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Well-deserved, and a huge deal for our movement on the international stage. Hemant applauds, "It’s a tremendous honor and I have no doubt De Dora will be a great representative and model of Humanist values."

Five Fully-Conscious (I Promise) Book Recommendations

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
July 24, 2014

I’ve actually read most of four books in the space of about 12 days. No, I’m not on vacation and I’m not a speed-reader. It’s insomnia.

1 Comment

Desecrate This!

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

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

Gulf Center for Human Rights reports that Waleed Abu Al-Khair, the Saudi human rights activist and attorney convicted of criticizing the state, is being subjected to "poor conditions" and "ill treatment" without access to medical care in prison, and his wife has been forbidden from seeing him. Al-Khair's is one of the cases, along with Raif Badawi's, raised by CFI at the UN Human Rights Council, which sent Saudi Arabia into a shouting fury. Global Voices highlights more of Saudi Arabia's abuses.

We welcomed our new outreach staffer Stef McGraw in a previous edition of Cause & Effect, but we wanted to do it a little more formally, so here's a more complete introduction to our awesome new organizer.  

Jesus Did Not Become the God-Klingon

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

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

Yesterday the president signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT folks, and happily did not add a religious exemption, and we expressed our appreciation:

Too often religious beliefs are used as an excuse to avoid obeying laws that apply to everyone else, as the regrettable Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case illustrates. ... [This] is a welcome step in the right direction, toward a secular government in which religion can’t be used as a shield for prejudice and unequal treatment.

Our reaction's been noted by the Washington Times and the Christian Post.

RNS's David Gibson calls Obama's decision to allow religious contractors to use religious beliefs as a hiring criteria (which we're not happy about) a "split-the-baby" solution. And usually, atheists love those kinds of solutions.

These People Always Find God in the Sunsets

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

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

Today the president is expected to sign an executive order that forbids discrimination against LGBT folks without the religious exemption we dreaded. This is good news indeed, and Michael De Dora fills us in

Christian Post reports on CFI's efforts to get a Secular Celebrant bill passed in Ohio

CFI's Tom Flynn and Julia Lavarnway have put together a new book on Robert IngersollReligions Are For a DayTim Binga gives a preview, and you can order it here

1 Comment

Obama Set to Bar Discrimination Against LGBT Workers, Without a Religious Exemption

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
July 18, 2014

On Monday, President Barack Obama will sign an executive order that will bar federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, according to news outlets. And, in a major win for advocates of secular government, the order will reportedly not include an exemption for religious organizations.

“Religions Are For a Day: Robert Green Ingersoll Appreciated”

Access Points with Timothy Binga
July 18, 2014

The folks here at the Center for Inquiry have published a new book on Robert Ingersoll. Tom Flynn, director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum and editor of Free Inquiry, and Julia Lavarnway, assistant editor of Free Inquiry, put together this work which includes a biography of Ingersoll, several short pieces by Ingersoll himself, and descriptions and stories of some of the more interesting pieces at the RGI Birthplace Museum. The Freethought Trail, another of Flynn’s related projects, has several chapters devoted to it in this work.

For many U. S. Christians, It’s Still “Subdue the Earth”

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
July 18, 2014

Rank-and-file Christians seem to be less concerned about the environment than other Americans -- and also, less concerned than their pastors think they are.

10 Comments

COBRA’s Religious Exemption

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 18, 2014

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

CFI sent out an email yesterday on how our Indiana win for Secular Celebrants is a great example of the progress we're making, and now much more there is to do.  

Hemant opines on the Secular Celebrant bill CFI-Northeast Ohio is championing:

This is a no-brainer. There’s just no good reason to oppose the bill. Which means someone will inevitably do so, claiming that allowing atheists to officiate a wedding would somehow ruin the experience for other people or deprive ministers of some holy power. 

1 Comment

Some Observations on the Seventh Circuit’s Decision

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
July 17, 2014

As many of you know by now, the Center for Inquiry—actually, scratch that—all nonreligious Americans achieved a significant victory in federal appeals court on Monday. I want to discuss briefly some of the implications of that decision.

Awful! Not Even Close!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 17, 2014

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

CFI chief Ron Lindsay reflects on the lessons of CFI's major victory this week in the 7th Court of Appeals for Secular Celebrants in Indiana:

We need to be open and candid about our beliefs. The more of us who openly and unashamedly declare ourselves nonreligious, the more quickly social acceptance will come. Indiana has learned it can’t shame or intimidate atheists into hypocrisy. The rest of the U.S. can learn the same lesson. 

And CFI's push for equal treatment for nonbelievers continues, as today we announced a new Ohio bill, the result of a partnership between CFI-Northeast Ohio and State Rep. Mike Foley, to allow Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages in the state. 

We Are Ends in Ourselves

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

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

Last night, Dan Courtney gave his historic atheist invocation before a meeting of the Town Board of Greece, NY. He did a great job, and CFI staff and supporters were there at the rally afterward showing support for a secular government. We put up video of Dan's invocation, here's audio of Ron and Dan at the rally, and we'll have video of the rally as well later today. Here's the Associated Press's report filed right after the invocation, and Hemant has a great overview of the whole shebang. The Democrat and Chronicle has a good report, too...

In Defense of Academic Philosophy

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
July 15, 2014

Professional philosophy is a discipline whose nature is often poorly understood, and whose usefulness is too often disparaged. Doing philosophy well takes training and practice, and while everyone should learn and engage with its formal methods, great (or even just good) philosophers are made and not born. The forge in which they are tempered is still largely the academy, and basic science as well as social progress in numerous fields depends upon universities and professional academic study. There is a role for public philosophy, and philosophers must engage productively with the public, but we ought to acknowledge that philosophers tend to grow best when subject to the tried and tested institutions of professional academia. Those who support reason and humanism ought to rally behind the academy and those engaged in basic research, recognizing their roles as inherent parts of the ongoing Enlightenment.

Dancing Pepper Mill

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

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

Holy moly guys, things are crazy. Dig it: Yesterday morning, I finish that day's Morning Heresy, and I head to the gym. Now, how often do I go to the gym? Not very often I don't mind telling you thank you very much. But there I was, milling on the tread, when I get a call from an Indiana area code. It's Reba Boyd Wooden, the head of CFI-Indiana. You know what she tells me? That CFI has won its case to allow Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages in Indiana! ...

Found to Contain Toxins

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

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

Tomorrow, atheist Dan Courtney delivers his invocation before a meeting of the Town Board of Greece, NY, and CFI will be there to represent our movement. AL.com previews the event

Michael De Dora explains why CFI is suspending its support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA):

We cannot and must not accept broad religious exemptions from prohibitions of discrimination in federal law simply to receive a sliver of equality. Indeed, such broad religious exemptions are a direct threat to true equality and a secular, constitutional government....As the debate on ENDA continues, the Center for Inquiry will settle for nothing less than a strong federal law that protects from employment discrimination all LGBT individuals. 

Why CFI Is Suspending Its Support for ENDA

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
July 11, 2014

After the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Center for Inquiry has decided to suspend its support for ENDA until the bill's religious exemption is either greatly narrowed or scrapped altogether.

2 Comments

Inherit the What?

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 11, 2014

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

Don't forget: This Tuesday, CFI is in Greece, NY for the atheist invocation at the center of the Greece v. Galloway Supreme Court case. There's a press conference right after the invocation by Dan Courtney, and our own Ron Lindsay is speaking there. 

Ron finally angers the folks at right-wing outlet Breitbartwho call out his recent Huffington Post piece on the power of the Catholic justices in the Hobby Lobby decision "chilling." (And they apparently think Ron works at HuffPo, but what can you do, they're not known for their research prowess.)

1 Comment

An Exorcism for Joe Biden

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 10, 2014

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

It's a full morning, so let's get started with an action alert: Tell your U.S. senators to fix part of what Hobby Lobby broke to guarantee access to birth control. (Then come right back here, okay?)

I was finally able to get ahold of Josephine Macintosh, the CFI representative who confronted Saudi Arabia at the UN Human Rights Council last month and drove them into a tizzy, and I have an interview with her up at Friendly Atheist. Josephine says:

I am deeply convinced that societies should allow for a plurality of voices and opinions to be voiced, whether people or a government agrees or disagrees with these. Badawi and al-Khair represent the minority that undertake the courageous step of speaking up and defending their fundamental rights despite dangerous consequences. We cannot have any kind of development without people like them doing what oppressive systems fear most: on-the-ground dissent. In a sense it is an expression of their dignity. It is important to keep their voices and actions heard within the hallowed halls of the UN. 

1 Comment

Has American Secularism Succeeded or Failed?

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
July 09, 2014

In the wake of the Hobby Lobby case, should we rethink the brilliance and effectiveness of the First Amendment's guarantee regarding the establishment of religion? Has it helped or hindered the valuable goal of seperating church and state, or are there other models and forces at work around the world that can achieve it?

12 Comments

Magnificent Desolation

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 09, 2014

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

CFI's Michael De Dora discusses the Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign on the Token Skeptic podcast, as well as his own journey to secular activism.  

Michael also wrote a post giving background and context to the prison sentencing of Saudi Arabian rights activist Waleed Abu al-Khair.

Director of CFI-KenyaGeorge Ongeresubmits a report on his organization's outreach activities, including their efforts to assist and educate children, orphaned as a result of witchcraft belief. 

1 Comment

CFI–Kenya Report: African Humanism and its Agenda

Guest Blog from Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
July 08, 2014

This is a special guest post by George Ongere of CFIKenya.

One of the problems that have arisen in the recent times amongst humanists in Africa is the definition of “African Humanism”, or what should be termed as Africa humanism. Thus, confusions have always caught up with many Africans when it comes to connecting the two terms; “Africa” and “humanism.”

Saudi Rights Activist Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
July 08, 2014

Waleed Abu al-Khair was sentenced to 15 years in prison, a 15-year travel ban after his release, and fined 200,000 riyals for "inciting public opinion against the government" and "insulting the country's leaders and judiciary."

Dumb Enemies

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

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

Waleed Abulkhair -- Saudi human rights advocate, brother-in-law and attorney to Raif Badawi -- is sentenced to 15 years in prison for "inciting public opinion against the government" and "insulting the country's leaders and judiciary." CFI spoke out against their persecution before the UN Human Rights Council last month, which led to this infamous confrontation with Saudi Arabia's representative. A silver lining is that this has moved the U.S. to express that it is "troubled" and that it intends to address it with the Saudi government.

In 2013, CFI hosted a symposium centered on the question posed by legal scholar Brian Leiter's book Why Tolerate Religion? (Here's video of his presentation.) This week, he comes to Point of Inquiry to talk about the Hobby Lobby case and its long-term implications. 

1 Comment

“Finding [the] Bigfoot [Bear]”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 07, 2014

The television show, Finding Bigfoot, continues. While the hairy man-beast still remains elusive, the Animal Planet’s “team” keeps looking, assisted by local good ol’ boys and gals, their imaginative children, producers trying to make something out of nothing, and cool night-vision equipment.

2 Comments

New Koch

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

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

It's July 7, 2014, a.k.a. 7/7/14, which is significant because 7 + 7 = 14, therefore, um, it's lucky, like, three times over, or maybe four, because, um...okay I just made that up.

Our boss Ron Lindsay lays out the philosophy behind CFI's pursuit of the Burzynski "cancer quack" case, and why we cover both religious and pseudoscientific incursions into policy and health care:

In some instances, religion and pseudoscience share something else: they are vehicles for exploiting the desperate hopes and fears of the vulnerable. ... Those who exploit these false hopes, especially when the exploitation is done for financial gain, are blameworthy. Indeed, whether they are cloaked in priest’s vestments or a lab coat, they merit our severest condemnation. ... The FDA’s actions represent an abandonment of its responsibilities to the public. 

The Burzynski Case: The FDA’s Failure to Prevent Exploitation of Desperate Patients

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
July 06, 2014

As supporters of CFI are aware, we critically examine not only religion but also pseudoscience.  Some regard these as distinct enterprises with little overlap.  As you might expect, most of us at CFI view things differently. 

2 Comments

Hijack the Utopian Ideal

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 03, 2014

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

I just love this. An NBC affiliate in Los Angeles does a profile of a local dowser who says, hilariously, "I charge $500, and there’s no guarantees, although I’m more than 95-percent successful," and, "Scientists don’t understand this. Therefore, they don’t believe in it." Luckily, the piece also has CFI-LA's Jim Underdown to, erm, throw cold water on it.

CFI is a member of the Coalition for Liberty and Justice, and they have a great short video that explains the problem with the religious right's definition of "religious freedom."  

1 Comment

Acupuncturists Respond to Critics With Quiver of Fallacies

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
July 02, 2014

I recently wrote a piece titled "Acupuncture Can Spread Tuberculosis, Researchers Warn," which prompted many angry supporters of acupuncture to respond. Here's what they said. 

1 Comment

Religion 1, Science 0

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

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

CFI challenges the FDA to explain the inexplicable: Its decision to lift restrictions on so-called "cancer-quack" Stanislaw Burzynski's clinical trials:

“We struggle to see why the FDA continues to enable this deceptive, antiscientific, and unethical medical adventurism and profiteering, even for patients who are terminally ill,” writes CFI. “Given the behavior of Dr. Burzynski and the Burzynski Research Institute over the course of nearly three decades of failed research and trials, and in the face of a complete lack of scientific evidence demonstrating the efficacy of their expensive and dangerous antineoplaston treatment, we find the FDA’s decision perplexing and profoundly disturbing.” 

The president approves the WWII Memorial prayer plaque over the objections of folks like us. Stars and Stripes' Travis J. Tritten spoke to me, raising the point that the prayer doesn't mention Jesus:

“The level of religiosity within a given prayer is really beside the point,” said Paul Fidalgo, communications director for the Center for Inquiry. “The real issue that it is a prayer, regardless of the degree. It is an invocation within a religious tradition.” 

2 Comments

Hobby Lobby – Where Alito (and the Administration) Went Wrong

Guest Blog from Nicholas Little
July 01, 2014

In some ways, you have to hand it to Justice Alito. It is uncommon for a Supreme Court Justice to get every single question in a case wrong, but that is exactly what the newest member of the Court’s conservative majority managed with the contraception mandate cases.

11 Comments

The Dry Humor of Samuel Alito

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
July 01, 2014

Not since Mick Jagger promoted the upcoming Monty Python reunion concert by complaining about old stars from the 60s who just endlessly rehash their own stuff (OK, that was earlier this week) has anyone displayed mastery of dry British humor like U. S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Jr.

Hashtag Conestoga Wood

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

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

The Hobby Lobby case goes bad. We say in our press release:

This is not a decision that advances religious freedom – it is a decision that enshrines religious privilege over and above employee well-being. This decision defies common sense, lacks compassion, and has the potential to harm us all.

Our response get picked up by outlets like Deseret NewsCommon DreamsJoe. My. God., and even in France by Sciences et Avenir

CFI chief Ron Lindsay writes at HuffPo about how the decision's focus on contraception, and being so explicit about excluding things like blood transfusions, raises questions about the implications of a Catholic majority on the court...