The Morning Heresy 10/18/12: I Could Fly Like a Blue Heron

October 18, 2012

Your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

This is a big deal: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has declared that it will drop its efforts to pursue a binding blasphemy law at the UN. Kuwait is not satisfied, nor are other members of the coalition.

Also today in blasphemy:

Egyptian atheist Alber Saber is "defiant" as his blasphemy trial resumes. You can sign a Change.org petition on his behalf here

Matthaios Tsimitakis at Al Jazeera on how Greece is buckling under pressure from its Neo-Nazi faction to get even tougher with blasphemy laws:

Greeks who are proud they live in a secular democracy protecting the freedom of speech discovered that not only is secularism limited in the country, but also learned that last March . . . the law against blasphemy was strengthened, widening possible prison sentences to six months. The irony in this case is that the very same day that the author of Elder Pastitsios was arrested, the Greek police brutally cracked down on some Muslim protestors' attempt to demonstrate outside the American embassy in Athens. 

Turkish pianist Fazil Say will face trial for blasphemous tweets today.  

Egyptian being held in Saudi Arabia under blasphemy charges threatens suicide, causing a diplomatic scramble. 

In other news... 

Council for Secular Humanism chief Tom Flynn had an op-ed opposing Florida's "Amendment 8" published in the Tallahassee Democrat last week, but he's not through taking this ill-conceived initiative apart. Ooooh no. Tom continues his evisceration of Amendment 8 with part 2 in an ongoing series of pieces, "Thinking Straight about Church and State." 

U.S. Rep. Paul "Lies From the Pit of Hell" Broun was running unopposed for reelection, until someone started a write-in campaign for Charles Darwin. I'll leave it to you as to whether a dead guy would be better.    

Vorjack at Unreasonable Faith rounds up some selections of political leaders orating on secularism

Shawna Scott writes in our CFI On Campus blog about the effort to remove prayers from the University of Windsor's convocation.

James Croft of the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy finds religion. No, not really, but only sort of. James is beginning his training to be a leader in the Ethical Culture movement

David Niose is bullish on seculars' ability to wield political influence. Phil Zuckerman at Bloomberg breaks down the subsets of "nones" and how they vote.

Online now: Episode one of Richard Dawkins' new television documentary series, Sex, Death And The Meaning Of Life.

Steve Jobs (or, as I call him, The Steve -- peace be upon him) is in Limbo, learning lessons and laughing at Foxconn workers, according to one psychic who is making me very mad. Says Sharon Hill: 

It’s another clear indication that this psychic is more full of herself than the spirit of Steve.

Michael Moynihan in Tablet (in which I keep being disappointed when I'm reminded is not about iPads) says free expression goes in all directions: If you can't ban criticism of Islam or Christianity, you can't ban Mein Kampf either.

The famous little film clip of "Bigfoot" sauntering about the woods (the "Patterson-Gimlin movie") turns 45 this weekend. Rob Boston, who sent me the tip, tells me he plans to celebrate by running around his back yard in a gorilla mask.  

Jennifer Fulwiler at the National Catholic Register has a problem with her version of atheistic reductionism, as she feels it fails to grasp the more numinous aspects of existence:

Scientists could attach a neuroimaging device to the head of a man who is reunited with the woman he loves after a long absence. The scientists could describe in great detail every part of his brain that was in use when she first walked in the room, and explain precisely how all the neurons were firing as he gazed at her. Would that data alone fully capture the moment?

Well, no, but that doesn't mean there isn't more data yet to be found that could capture the moment. Shouldn't we see if we can?

Virgin Mary, chillin' at the car wash

California "ghost busters" wield laser grids and other gadgets to gather "solid evidence":

In the Corona case, we found solid evidence that there was something paranormal going on in the home. We picked up dark shadowy figures on film and voices on our electronic voice recorders. 

Near-identical UFO-looking things show up on Google Maps locations 1000 miles apart.  

Claudia at Friendly Atheist on the absurdity of the religious right's opposition to the HPV vaccine. 

Korean Christian cult's rehab techniques result in an amputated leg

Texas attorney general Greg Abbott on the efforts to keep religion out of school events:

We will not allow Atheist groups from outside of the state of Texas to come into this state, to use menacing and misleading intimidation tactics to try to bully schools to bow down at the altar of secular beliefs. 

Joe Nickell explodes the Enfield Poltergeist in Skeptical Inquirer:

As a magician experienced in the dynamics of trickery, I have carefully ex­amined Playfair’s lengthy account of the disturbances at Enfield and have concluded that they are best explained as children’s pranks.  

Congratulations, Pennsylvania. Apparently your state legislature decided overwhelmingly that it's now "Prayer Month." 

Quote of the Day        

W. Kamau Bell in a video in which he is very, very mad at science.

Take the law of gravity. If it wasn't for science, I could fly like a blue heron. Watch this! I'm not flyin', am I, science??? Nooo. Stupid science.

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