That Chaos is Our Destiny

January 28, 2015

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

Our own Debbie Goddard gave the opening remarks at FTBCon, and the people, they really liked it.

James Randi announces his retirement.  

The Federal Trade Commission declares that the weight-loss supplements hawked by Dr. Oz are junk, and it's no innocent mistake on Oz's part. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at his snake oil show. 

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Quetzalcoatl Didn’t Return on His Raft of Snakes

January 27, 2015

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

Yesterday, we called upon President Obama to push the Saudis to free Raif Badawi and other jailed dissidents when the president was to meet with King Salman. But given Obama's discussion with Fareed Zakaria, I'm going to guess he won't.

Vox has a useful primer on Saudi Arabia and how it came to be what it is, though I wish it didn't have to be framed in that "but were afraid to ask" trope. Can we just not be afraid to ask? Can we just be okay with the idea that not everyone knows everything about everything? Okay I'll stop. 

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Fudging a Fatwa

January 26, 2015

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

Our boss Ron Lindsay sits down to talk about the ideas behind his new book, The Necessity of Secularismin this short video. "If we want to live together in peace, we need to reason together. We can't have God tell us what to do." I bet Ron didn't expect to find praise for his book in the Jamaica Gleaner, where Ian Boyne says, "His is an excellent, irenic book that should appeal to well-thinking theists, showing why their best bet is a secular state, not a religious one." (Irenic means "aiming or aimed at peace." I didn't know that before.)

Before you do anything else this week, you should probably catch up on the last fortnight of CFI activity with the latest Cause & Effect newsletter

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He Kept His Head

January 23, 2015

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

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is dead. Mainstream obituaries and condolences from world leaders are fairly warm and fuzzy about the absolute dictator of a medieval theocracy that subjugates women, and tortures and executes dissidents. But he was a "reformer," you see.

As President Obama said in a statement:

I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship. As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions.

Well, that he did. 

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No Owls, Bats, or Moths

January 22, 2015

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

Amnesty International says Raif Badawi's second round of flogging may be postponed for medical reasons for the second time. The Guardian profiles Raif's wife Ensaf Haidar, and it's fairly heartbreaking, but boy is she an inspiring person.

Kevin Sullivan at WaPo looks at the big picture of Saudi Arabia's crackdown on human rights, and notes that the Saudis are "allies" in the West's fight against ISIS. Meanwhile, Adam Taylor, also at the Post, compares the legal punishments of Saudi Arabia with those of ISIS, and, well, you'd be forgiven for getting them mixed up.

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It’s a Small(pox) World After All

January 21, 2015

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

The Supreme Court unanimously decides that a Muslim prisoner may wear a beard, in violation of prison policy. Howard Friedman says the floodgates are now open:

The Supreme Court has now reaffirmed the conclusion of most courts that an inmate may invoke [the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act] to require accommodation of a totally idiosyncratic belief-- so long as it is sincerely held. Religious visions shared by no one else apparently still qualify. 

Thomas Friedman (no relation I assume) is irritated with the Obama administration's dancing around the "Islamic" part of "Islamic extremism":

I am all for restraint on the issue, and would never hold every Muslim accountable for the acts of a few. But it is not good for us or the Muslim world to pretend that this spreading jihadist violence isn’t coming out of their faith community.  

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Like a Diamond in the Sky

January 20, 2015

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

The decibel level of the demands for Saudi Arabia to cease its punishment of Raif Badawi is getting much louder (and to think we were struggling to get anyone to care just a few weeks ago). 18 Nobel laureates appeal to their peers in Saudi Arabia to speak out, and eight U.S. Senators wrote to King Abdullah. At the end of last week, Raif's punishment was postponed, and his case was put up "for review" by the Saudi Supreme Court. I told Iain Thomson at The Register:

It's hard to believe that they would have referred the case for any reason other than responding to the sudden international pressure over the case. ... The attention is there, that's great, but pressure needs to be more forceful. 

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Scholars the World Over, Abandon Your Studies!

January 16, 2015

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

It's Religious Freedom Day.

The second round of floggings for Raif Badawi were to take place today, but due to his medical condition, it is reported that the next lashings have been postponed so he can heal from the first lashings. Ali Rizvi goes on CNN to lend his personal perspective to the story. 

This footage of press speaking to a State Department representative about this is not encouraging, as she asserts, "We're not in the business of demanding things." But she does support your right to make a snowman, so there's that.

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And I’ll Form the Head

January 15, 2015

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

Like a skepto-humanist Voltron, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism have officially merged with CFI to form one, unified Center for Inquiry. No longer three corporations, Devastator-like we have assembled into a single gestalt beast, one single organization. And I'll form the head. (No I won't.)

Right-wing media "watchdog" group NewsBusters unloads its clumsy snark on us for our statement to the media asking that climate change deniers not be referred to as skeptics...

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Nobody Photoshops Angela

January 14, 2015

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

Several outlets are publishing Charlie Hebdo's latest cover image, including us ('cause that's how we roll) and the Washington Post. The New York Times didn't, but their public editor says they should have:

The new cover image of Charlie Hebdo is an important part of a story that has gripped the world’s attention over the past week. The cartoon itself, while it may disturb the sensibilities of a small percentage of Times readers, is neither shocking nor gratuitously offensive. And it has, undoubtedly, significant news value. 

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