A Collection of Passionate Oddballs

March 6, 2014

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

The impact of Carl Sagan on humanism is examined by Kimberly Winston, here in the Washington Post. Lots of important skepto-atheists are quoted in here, and somehow I got in there too, saying:

He showed us that to marvel at life on our planet was to cherish it and work to preserve it. For that, we have to reject bad, old modes of thinking, look at the world as it really is rather than how we’d like to believe it is, and tackle the crises that face us. 

Winston also rounds up some of Sagan's profound quotes. Chris Stedman talks to former Sagan pupil, SETI Carl Sagan Center director and Committee for Skeptical Inquiry fellow David Morrison:

Carl was an inspiration to his students—not only in helping us to become good research scientists, but also in challenging us to understand the cultural context of our science and encouraging us to be leaders and reach out to communicate with the public.

Speaking of the cosmos, here is a really impressive website showing things in our Solar System to their scale, beginning with the Moon at one pixel. "As it turns out, things are pretty far apart." 

CFI On Campus is looking for a few good heretics we can overwork. Apply now to be a 2014 summer intern

Imprisoned for blasphemy (cartoons critical of Islam on Facebook) in Tunisia in 2012, blogger Jaber Mejeri is released.  

Abby Franklin writes at Elon University's The Pendulum on the challenges atheists in the American South face:

If atheist politicians aren’t accepted by Southern states, atheist residents within those states assume they won’t be either. This trickle-down effect encourages the silencing of a minority group that thinks differently, leaving atheists in a position reminiscent of LGBTQ-identifying citizens — with the paralyzing task of “coming out.” 

Sarah Posner's most excellent opening to her post on Kansas and its "religious freedom" laws:

[T]he Kansas State Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow to answer the question: do our religious freedom laws adequately protect us from the gays? 

And about these laws: Jonathan Merritt says Christians who support them are confused. Are they the upstanding majority or the oppressed minority?

If Christians really believe they are becoming a marginalized movement, why would they want to disempower marginalized people in the marketplace? It’s easy to codify your own biases when you’re part of the majority and get to be the one refusing services to others. But what if you’re the minority? What if others are turning you away because they think you are the abominable one? 

1 in 10 Americans think "HTML" is a kind of sexually transmitted disease, and I'm not certain they're wrong. More tidbits:

27% identified "gigabyte" as an insect commonly found in South America. 

23% thought an "MP3" was a "Star Wars" robot. It is actually an audio file.

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi at Al-Monitor looks at the growth in atheism and resistance to religious entanglement in government in the Arab world, saying, "In the struggle between the state and the nonreligionists, the latter are certainly at a disadvantage." No kidding.

Arizona State Representative Juan Mendez, an atheist, delivered his second atheist invocation to the legislature

Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News rips into Prime Minister Erdoğan for "associating atheism with terrorism."

Colin Dickey at The Verge tells of Los Angeles' old ghost-hunting scene:

There was a brief moment in time, it seems, when a remarkable — remarkably weird, remarkably thoughtful — collection of passionate oddballs came together and found each other.  

A report in Pediatrics on how attempts to convince parents of the safety of vaccines can backfire includes one of the most disheartening thoughts we skepto-atheists encounter: "The best response to false beliefs is not necessarily providing correct information." 

Analyzing the arguments in the Hobby Lobby/contraceptive mandate Supreme Court case, Kaiser Family Foundation cites CFI's amicus brief

Intelligent design-promoting group the Discovery Institute is touchy on Twitter with CFI on the funding of public school creationism. Glad they're reading us!

The entire Ukrainian conflict can be explained by these Jurassic-age pyramids that served as power stations to Mars and my head just exploded. 

Andrew Sullivan, the wishful thinker, believes Pope Fluffy is fluffy about civil unions for same-sex couples:

What he is clearly saying, I think, is that you don’t have to change doctrine to respect the civil society’s and secular state’s decision to accommodate gay couples and families within its existing arrangements for heterosexual households.  

National Center for Lesbian Rights files suit challenging Wyoming's same-sex marriage ban. 

Mike Dobbins at Killing the Buddha thinks atheists are getting off too easy on our definitions of atheism. CFI's Ed Beck accuses him of "trying too hard," and maybe this passage shows what Ed means:

Atheists like to propose that a ‘lack of belief in’ absolves them from possessing any belief whatsoever.  However, an ‘absence of belief’ doesn’t negate the prospect of other beliefs or disbeliefs around the subject.  In fact, it actually demands it.  Stating you have an absence of belief in God says nothing about what you believe about the God.

Ssshhh. It's gonna be okay. 

Quote of the Day

Lawrence Krauss takes to The New Yorker to dismantle the idea that Hollywood is hostile to theism, and singles out a particular Oscar acceptance speech:

McConaughey’s decision to open his acceptance speech with thanks to God—as in many similar statements, usually made by victorious athletes in post-game interviews—was widely regarded as a sign of humility: a mark of virtue, in other words. I would argue that it would be far more humble to suggest that his hard work, the incredible physical transformation he underwent, and the dedicated cast and crew who supported his acting experience all directly led to his winning the award, rather than his being specially “blessed” by a God who chose him for that privilege. 

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

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