Blog Archives for August 2014

Conga Lines for Xenu

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

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

(Note: Paul is on vacation. Today's guest Heretic is Ed Beck.)

For swindling citizens there, a Quebec “clairvoyant medium” has been charged with fraud—and sorcery. 

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“Incorruptible” Corpse of St. Cecilia

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 28, 2014

Reputedly, Cecilia (or Cecily) was a member of a noble Roman family who—having been forced into marriage—persuaded her new husband, Valerian, to respect her holy vow of virginity. Legends say he was himself converted to Christianity by a vision of his wife’s guardian angel. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of music and musicians, and is represented as such in many paintings, including one by Raphael (1843–1520). The designation came about because, it was said, while organs played at her wedding, “she sang in her heart” to Christ (Coulson 1958, 107, 114). She is commonly depicted playing a flute, harp, or other instrument, especially an organ (see accompanying picture postcard, ca. 1915, author’s collection).

But he’s really serious about converting to Islam

Bang Showbiz/Gannett

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

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

(Note: Paul is on vacation, or at least that's the rumor he's been spreading. Today's guest Heretic is Stef McGraw.)

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has announced that it is presenting the Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking to Dr. Paul Offit. For those unfamiliar, not only has his vaccinology and immunology work saved countless lives, but he's taken to fighting against the alternative medicine movement with his book Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine. 

A Multi-Billion Dollar Inculcation Machine

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

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

(Note: Paul is on "vacation." Today's guest Heretic is Lauren Becker.)

The Primaries are over and we now have atheists on the ballot in two very-red states

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We’re Hurtling Through Space Right Now

Shutterstock

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
August 26, 2014

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

(Note: Paul is on vacation, or at least that's the rumor he's spreading. Today's guest Heretic is Stef McGraw.)  

Get out your tie-dye shirts, everyone. The Council for Secular Humanism's American Freethought documentary series will be screened at the 15th annual Woodstock Film Festival over Labor Day weekend.

 

You Have Creatures That Aren’t Human

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

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

(Note: Paul is on vacation. Today's guest Heretic is Lauren Becker.)  

When you care enough to send the very best... Oh, wait. We don't care that much. BYU bookstore accidentally stocks greeting cards celebrating same-sex weddings.

Disputed Wafers

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

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

This is important, oh my tens of readers: Next week, your Morning Heretic (me, Paul) is taking the week off, BUT FEAR NOT. In my stead, my colleagues Lauren Becker (director of marketing), Stef McGraw (campus and community organizer) and Ed Beck (no idea), will keep the blog going, as they have so ably done during my previous disappearances. Be nice to them.

The Town of Greece, NY releases a new policy for who can and cannot deliver prayers and invocation at town council meetings, and we at CFI think it looks pretty exclusionary of the nonreligious

1 Comment

Every Seed is an Abomination

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

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

SCOTUS grants an emergency request to stay the ruling of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, roadblocking the reversal of Virginia's same-sex marriage ban until the Supremes decide on the issue themselves.

We've got an action alert out about a bill in Congress that would require the federal government to subsidize even those adoption agencies that discriminate based on religious opposition to, well, you name it. We write:

At its core, this bill places the adoption agency’s religious doctrines over the best interests of the child and the rights of prospective parents. This is not only a violation of basic moral principles, but of empirical evidence, which shows children benefit most from being in a loving home with two parents, regardless of their sexual orientation or technical marital status. 

2 Comments

Tell That to My Quetzalcoatlus

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

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

It's getting harder and harder to make these Heresies lighthearted, folks. Bear with me as I try and find the right balance day by day. 

The Islamic State releases a video of one of its operatives beheading journalist James Foley, who'd been missing since 2012. (I have not watched the video, and likely will not.) As Hemant's headline painfully puts it: "Followers of the Religion of Peace Behead Another U.S. Journalist."        

Microsoft ends its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate coalition that lobbies for a number of right-wing causes, ostensibly over the group's resistance to renewable energy. It was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's stance on climate change that caused Apple to leave that group in 2009.

Make Everybody Purple

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

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

CFI's Ed Beck, a former U.S. Marine, joins an important panel on HuffPost Live (with Point of Inquiry host Josh Zepps) discussing the unique challenges of humanists and atheists in the U.S. military

High profile Christians are under the growing impression that they are facing an internal "Babylonian" exile within the U.S. (more secularism, less hating on gays, etc.), and David Gibson reports how -- and you'll never believe this -- every prognosticator seems to think -- coincidentally -- that their own brand of Christianity is best equipped to survive the long haul. I know! It's crazy, the way these things shake out like that.

“Death-Bed Conversion of Robert G. Ingersoll”

Access Points with Timothy Binga
August 18, 2014

The Ingersoll Conference occurred this past weekend here at CFI, and while I was preparing some display cases for the event, I re-discovered many interesting items that are part of our libraries’ collections. I also discovered some history about Ingersoll and his supposed conversion while on his death-bed back in 1899.

Hair Samples: From Bigfoot or the Bigfoot Bear?

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 18, 2014

The hirsute (hairy) man-beast known as Sasquatch—or, since 1958, more commonly called Bigfoot—is elusive indeed. Although wanted dead or alive, no such living creature has ever been found (notwithstanding Roger Patterson’s 1967 film of “Patty,” supposedly a Bigfoot with pendulous breasts but actually the common Bigsuit or Sasquatchus costumedus). Neither has a corpse been discovered (despite such hoaxes as the Minnesota Iceman, a carnival exhibit billed as a “Sasquatch—Safely Frozen in the Ice” but instead a specimen of S. latex).

More of a Sidewalk Crack Than a Chasm

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

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

Just as there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel, things take a dark turn in Ferguson last night. On Thursday, CFI issued an official statement on the events to that point. Our CEO Ron Lindsay offers additional personal observations emphasizing free expression and reliance on evidence over presumptions.

New York Times reports on how ISIS is forcing religious minorities to convert to Islam or die. 

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Three Observations on Ferguson

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
August 18, 2014

The first observation is one the Center for Inquiry has already made, and in its official capacity, but it bears repeating. Although we recognize that the police (and now, apparently, the National Guard), have an obligation to maintain public order, that obligation must be fulfilled in a manner consistent with respect for our fundamental freedoms, including the right to peacefully assemble and protest.

8 Comments

The Myth of “The Media”

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
August 15, 2014

Blaming “the media” is not only vague writing and lazy thinking, but it is also ineffective. Here's why.

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God is Telling Us to Go to Commercial

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

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

Quick note: There will be no Morning Heresy tomorrow, and the blog will resume Monday.

The rights to free expression and a free press were put into grave question last night in Ferguson, MO. I honestly don't know how to handle this here in the Heresy, so I think I'll leave it at that for now and encourage you to read up.  

Indonesia's Supreme Court upholds the blasphemy sentence against atheist Alexander Aan (who has served his full sentence). 

7 Comments

Some with Bewildered Looks

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

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

The Vatican calls upon world religions, particularly Muslims, to speak out against the violence and persecution perpetrated by ISIS:

All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and in denouncing the use of religion to justify them. If not, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have?  

Speaking of ISIS, did you know that Hillary Clinton conspired to bring it to power? Apparently this is a thing now. 

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Neurons in a Doughnut

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

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

Robin Williams died yesterday, apparently by suicide, at age 63. I posted my immediate thoughts here

Though not explicitly within the skepto-atheist wheelhouse, the situation in Ferguson, Missouri has major implications for free expression and assembly. Here's a good, succinct look at why

Point of Inquiry this week has a fascinating discussion on how rational people could have allowed World War I, 100 years after its start, with MIT historian Christopher Capozzola. 

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Slender Man’s Cousin from Seattle

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

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

Zoe Williams at The Guardian has her eyes opened at the World Humanist Congress about the dire need for secularism around the world. Bangladesh's persecuted atheist bloggers receive Free Expression Awards at the Congress. Nobel prize-winning author Wole Soyinka addressed the conference, arguing that moderate religious leaders are "vicariously liable" for the atrocities of extremists like Boko Haram.

The Vancouver Pride Parade is infiltrated by some anti-gay jerk who insidiously slipped in by disguising himself as a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Bobby Henderson, the deity's originator, disavows the "douche." 

1 Comment

Death is Just One of the Many Side Effects

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

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

Yesterday we had great news about the judgment in our Secular Celebrant case in Indiana being finalized, but we incorrectly said that the state had decided not to appeal. Wrong, they has actually decided not to try and delay the decision, meaning that the law is officially changed now, which is huge, but the state could still request an appeal within 90 days. Chalk it up to miscommunication between well-meaning colleagues and confusion over legal terminology, but we felt very bad for giving folks the wrong information. The news itself is still fantastic, and it's a moment to celebrate. But we're CFI, and facts and the truth are a big deal to us. We always want to correct what's incorrect, even if we look a little dumb as a result. We're sorry for getting that wrong. A new statement will go up today that will have all the correct info. Thanks for bearing with us.

This Kobayashi Maru Scenario

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

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

Brian Pellot previews the World Humanist Congress, and says, "Some of the greatest advocates for these rights I’ve met in the past year have been non-religious groups, a good example being the Center for Inquiry."

6 Comments

R.V. Pierce Collection

Access Points with Timothy Binga
August 06, 2014

I have worked for the last five or six years on digitizing various items of historic value in my role as an adjunct instructor at the University of Buffalo. I have used the class I taught to not only teach the students various issues that arise while digitizing, but also to help small cultural institutions in the WNY area learn about digitization and get them started in making their collections available to a larger pool of people; namely those who are aware of NYHeritage.org, a repository of digital items from the various libraries of New York State. One of the first collections we converted to digital was the R.V. Pierce Collection of Medical Artifacts.

Really, Mr. Friedman?

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
August 06, 2014

Writing from Tel Aviv, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman today  surveyed the current Israeli-Gaza war and sighed, "More and more, this is becoming a religious conflict." Becoming, Mr. Friedman? Really? The seemingly-perpetual crisis in the Middle East has been a religious conflict -- not totally, but significantly (and often principally) since its beginnings. And all three Abrahamic faiths bear guilt, in my view.

1 Comment

Harry Potter and the Atheist of Sioux Falls

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

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

The European Space Agency makes history with the successful orbit of its Rosetta spacecraft around comet 67P, which required what one scientist called "the most complex and exotic trajectory that we have ever seen."

(And while you're at it, check out Cassini's picture of a hexagonal cloud formation on Saturn.) 

We at CFI are activating our SHARE program (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort) to raise funds for the Ugandan humanist organization that lost everything after a violent robbery. 

3 Comments

Is the “Crying Woman” Really Bigfoot?

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
August 05, 2014

While the Animal Planet TV series Finding Bigfoot never does find the elusive man-beast, the show’s “team” tries hard to convince us they have. Again and again, they try to conjure up the mythological creature with a fuzzy photo, bent twig, or fleeting shadow. Their leader, Matt Moneymaker, is, at least, aptly named for a Bigfoot ballyhooer.

And By the Way, Save My Cats

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

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

Lindsay Beyerstein has a great episode of Point of Inquiry up, with Laurel Braitman discussing "madness" and mental illness in the animal kingdom

South Carolina state legislator Mike Fair is working on a law to "teach the controversy" on evolution in public schools. This is a guy who says:

To teach that natural selection is the answer to origins is wrong. I don’t think it should be taught as fact.

More Dangerous Than Nukes

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
August 04, 2014

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

At Huffington Post, CFI chief Ron Lindsay relates his impressions of the Qur'an, and finds it a "defensive" work in which "the text exudes insecurity masked with bravado."

If the Qur'an seems more relentlessly violent, it's in part a function of its structure. Rather than a chronological narrative, it's a set of admonitions and instructions, repeated often, so the effect produced can be one of adamant hostility to those who reject Muhammad's revelations, whereas the murder of those who stood in the way of the Israelites is part of a larger, unfolding story.

2 Comments

Oh, the Humanity!

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
August 01, 2014

The world is, on its own, meaningless. Yet we are creatures living in it and driven by a desire to find patterns, to find meaning, to find purpose. That remains up to us. Neither science, nor religion, nor even a particular philosophy can do this for us. We are all utterly and somewhat horrifyingly free. The best of all our attempts at finding meaning show us the nature of this freedom, and point us to the responsibility that flows from it. We must then build for ourselves some meaning. Humanists happen to do so by realizing that we are not only all utterly free, but responsible in that freedom for one another as well as ourselves. 

6 Comments

Pseudoscience with Tax Breaks

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

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

Huge: Uganda's Constitutional Court strikes down the country's horrid anti-gay law. The catch: The ruling was more procedural, as the court determined that the law was passed without a quorum, and the substance of the bill was not at issue. 

Kimberly Winston reports that the Satanic Temple's legal gambit about "informed consent" abortion laws and the Hobby Lobby precedent faces some legal obstacles, one of which being whether any court would conclude that the Satanists are actually part of a religion.