We Had a Lot of Caves

May 5, 2017

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

Well that was not a great day. Trump signed his crap executive order meant to weaken the Johnson Amendment, sort of, and “provide regulatory relief” to believers who want to opt out of various rules and laws, but sort of. As we noted in our statement, the order is worse for what it symbolizes than what it actually accomplishes:

Despite the president’s claims today, religious leaders are already free to speak openly, and religious groups spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year lobbying, on all political issues. To maintain their institutions’ tax exempt status, they are barred from partisan electioneering, a rule that is already woefully under-enforced. Instead of bone-throwing to the fringes of the religious right, President Trump should listen to the vast majority of the American people — including the majority of clergy — who oppose politicking from the pulpit and support the Johnson Amendment.

HuffPost picked up our response, as did Windy City Times and NY City Lens

Also unimpressed by the executive order were a lot of religious conservatives, who were hoping for something with more teeth, like, sharper, bigger, serrated, flesh-ripping teeth.

But of course, there was more. The GOP House narrowly passed the American Health Care Act, which is almost a parody of evil legislation, like something President Esposito would come up with in Bananas.

Vann R Newkirk II at The Atlantic says the bill is right in line with prosperity gospel, and he's right:

The beliefs of some evangelicals connecting wealth to God’s favor became intertwined with faith healing ... faith healing was also undeniably a policy statement. It at least partially rejected the role of science in public health and encouraged a view that faith, virtue, and good works could be enough to secure healing. And although the furthest extremes of the prosperity gospel often bring to mind church scandals, thousand-dollar suits, and parish helicopters, the basic idea that a healthy life was also a sign of favor fit right in with the gospel’s defense of riches. Health is wealth. 

Or, as Ana Marie Cox -- a Christian -- put it on Twitter:

Jesus LOVED the poor, you vicious fucks. 

Thanks to the anti-vaxxers, Minnesota is having a terrible measles outbreak, especially among marginalized communities. 

James Randi blows my mind with his reversal of space-time to test prayer:

Some have suggested that the notion of retroactive prayer is so preposterous that researchers need not waste their time investigating it. ... For example, if it were true that a personal God exists who sometimes grants prayers, retroactive prayers are just as easy for Him to grant as proactive ones, and they do not require backwards in time signals from the prayee, since God knew who was going to be prayed for all along… 

For his first overseas visits as president, Trump chooses Israel, the Vatican, and Saudi Arabia. Of course.

Scientology facilities in Tennessee are shut down when it's discovered that they were imprisoning people

Brad Pitt tells GQ of his time being raised in caves and among Christian revivals:

I grew up in caves. We had a lot of caves, fantastic caverns. And we grew up First Baptist, which is the cleaner, stricter, by-the-book Christianity. Then, when I was in high school, my folks jumped to a more charismatic movement, which got into speaking in tongues and raising your hands and some goofy-ass shit. ... 

But I realized that the reverie and the joy and exuberance, even the aggression, I was feeling at the rock show was the same thing at the revival. One is Jimmy Swaggart and one is Jerry Lee Lewis, you know? One's God and one's Devil. But it's the same thing. It felt like we were being manipulated. ... It didn't fuck me up. 

Shamil Shams and Arafatul Islam write at Deutsche Welle about the use of blasphemy laws in places like Bangladesh and Pakistan to keep dissenters quiet and scared.

Ritu Menon at India's The Wire worries over the erosion of secularism in India:

My concern has to do with ... the steady consolidation of patriarchy that this nexus of religion, politics and the state portends – for the society and the whole country, obviously, but especially for women and all those who are marginalised. 

Here's what it's like at a happy hour for psychics. Probably not a lot to talk about between them, because, you know, they're psychics. 

Quote of the Day:

Pastor Mark Wingfield of the Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas:

My "sincerely held religious belief" should not allow me to discriminate against others on the basis of things they cannot change. No workaround to the First Amendment and existing law is needed to solve this "problem," because it should not be a problem if we follow the Golden Rule.

To make exceptions to our cherished religious liberty based on one person's "sincerely held religious beliefs" is the equivalent of making exceptions to the Golden Rule based on the idea that the rule should only benefit me.

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