An Exorcism for Joe Biden

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. 

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expresses "concern" about Saudi Arabia's persecution of Abu Al-Khair and Badawi. 

We have more on our UN work here, which includes advocacy for women's rights.  

Morality doesn't need God, and neither is it "subjective" in the sense that you can just make it up as it suits you. CFI's president Ron Lindsay explains in a Free Inquiry cover feature. 

Tom Flynn, meanwhile, takes issue with the way Barbara Ehrenreich been talking about "mystical experiences," and suggests we seculars ditch the word "transcendence" altogether.

Before it was available to most readers, Arthur Caplan's Free Inquiry piece on when personhood begins caused a stirNow it's free online and you can check it out yourself. 

CFI's Education Director David Koepsell takes to the CFI blog to ask a tough question: Is secularism failing?

We might do well to reflect upon over-reliance upon the law as a means of achieving Enlightenment goals, and focus rather upon the development of social norms that encourage rational thought, tolerance, critical thinking, and humility as well as promote positively the best aspects of naturalism and humanism.   

Now online from Skeptical Inquirer: Kendrick Frazier's wrap-up of October's CFI Summit

Joel Achenbach at WaPo investigates the beliefs of Carl Sagan: Atheist, agnostic, or something in-between? 

Tom Tomorrow sums up Hobby Lobby

Dungeons & Dragons is now encouraging players to break out of binary gender distinctions. How cool! According to the latest edition of the rules:

You can play as a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture's expectations of sex, gender and sexual behavior. For example, a male drow cleric defies the traditional gender divisions of drow society, which could be a reason for your character to leave that society and come to the surface. 

Slender Man is in the New York Times! (I'm becoming kind of a fan for some reason.) Their tech reporter Farhad Manjoo explains the myth, which he calls "a horror figure for the selfie age." 

Andy Kopsa at The Nation reports that hardline theocratic groups are pulling in millions in tax dollars from the White House's faith-based initiatives:

Conservative faith-based groups affiliated with the Family Research Council, anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers and an entire network of evangelical abstinence-only educators have raked in millions of dollars every year under new or renewed Obama-era grants through abstinence-only, fatherhood, “healthy marriage” and other initiatives.  

Phil Plait celebrates Jenny McCarthy's exit from The View, but worries that it looks like Sarah Palin wants in

Mongolia is measles-free

Nick Kristof notices, hey look, there's actual religious oppression in some predominantly-Muslim countries. He's squeamish to even say so:

I hesitated to write this column because religious repression is an awkward topic when it thrives in Muslim countries. Muslims from Gaza to Syria, Western Sahara to Myanmar, are already enduring plenty without also being scolded for intolerance.

I don't think the word "intolerance" quite covers it. 

Climate change denying congressman Dana Rohrabacher is also concerned about his precious bodily fluids

If you're an atheist in the Middle East, what do you do when their supposed to fast during Ramadan? Apparently, fake it. Hey! That's what I do on the crazy diet my wife has me on! Oops.

I didn't think it was possible, but the Arkansas Senate race is getting even more goddy. Next, we'll see Mark Pryor actually perform an exorcism on Joe Biden. (I figure Joe can handle it.)

According to a new survey, 58% of Scots believe that prayer can affect the real world, and 45% believe in Heaven.

On July 22, AHA will hold a congressional briefing on humanist chaplains in the military

American Atheists will launch an atheist Roku channel this month.  

Anand Venkatkrishnan at The Revealer reviews the new book of essays, Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment, by Akeel Bilgrami. 

Pope Fluffy high-fives Texas televangelists. Barf. 

Has anyone seen my smallpox

Quote of the Day

A Christian pastor in California, Lonny Lee Remmers, tortures a 13-year-old, and gets a mere two-year prison sentence. Hemant says:

In most states, you get a harsher penalty for selling weed. The lesson is clear: If you’re committing a crime, just remember to do it in the name of Jesus.

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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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