Smiling Joe Has His Own Celestial Body

March 28, 2014

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

Hey, folks, I was rather ill yesterday with something called "influenza," and I'm frankly not feeling much better today, but I couldn't let skepto-atheism writhe in painful, linkless ignorance for another day, so here's a two-day catchup of the Heresy. You are so welcome. 

George Ongere of CFI-Kenya writes at the CFI blog about his own embrace of social justice through humanism, and the fantastic work being done on the ground.

In Pakistan, Sawan Masih is sentenced to death for blasphemy, for allegedly insulting Mohammed. It's all so awful. From the Reuters report by Mubasher Bukhari:

The law does not require evidence to be presented in court and there are no penalties for false allegations. Courts often hesitate to hear evidence, fearful that reproducing it will also be considered blasphemous. Activists who want to reform the law say it is often abused by those seeking to grab money or property from the accused. 

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We Make Gods of Ourselves

March 26, 2014

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

The Hobby Lobby case has now been argued before the justices of the Supreme Court (see our primer on the case here), and our boss Ron Lindsay saw it all go down. His take? A little grim:

[Hobby Lobby] wants the protections granted to religious beliefs while also carrying out for-profit commercial activity with the legal advantages granted to corporations. Sadly, a majority of the Court appears prepared to accept Hobby Lobby’s claim, and with it a radical restructuring of the relationship between religion and government. 

Adam Liptak at the Times agrees that the justices seemed to favor Hobby Lobby's argument.

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Noah, Drunk and Naked

March 25, 2014

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

Happy Hobby Lobby Day! Or not. The Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.and we have a handy primer for you to help you cut through the confusion (and to see why we think Hobby Lobby is dead wrong).

The spotlight in now on the Justices. Robert Barnes at WaPo looks at the religious makeup of the Court, while Sahil Kapur at TPM notes that Scalia has taken a pretty firm stance in the past that would seem to contradict Hobby Lobby's case:

In 1990, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, concluding that the First Amendment "does not require" the government to grant "religious exemptions" from generally applicable laws or civic obligations. The case was brought by two men in Oregon who sued the state for denying them unemployment benefits after they were fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, which they said they did because of their Native American religious beliefs.

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I’m a Fennel Passionflower Slippery Elm!

March 24, 2014

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

On Friday, we put out the second issue ever of Cause & Effect, our official newsletter, and lemme tell you, it looks way better. Among the top news items in C&E was the release of CFI's new Hobby Lobby resource page, designed to clear up the confusion and double-speak surrounding the big Supreme Court case, which is hearing oral arguments tomorrow. Check it out

Reynolds Holding at Reuters notes that in trying to appease the God of Christianity, Hobby Lobby may be offending the god of the almighty buck

12 ounces of liquid cocaine are intercepted inside 14 condoms...headed for the Vatican

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Erdoğan the Eradicator

March 21, 2014

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

We were pretty aghast at the House's overwhelming passage of HR 1814, the get-out-of-the-healthcare-law-free bill for the religious. Well now it looks like the Senate might actually take it up (which we used to think was never going to happen), so we need you to tell your senators to send it back to the pits of despair from whence it came.

Turkey bans Twitter, and the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, weirdly vows to "eradicate" it. Good luck with that, pal. #yolo

Fred Phelps is really most sincerely dead.

His estranged son Nate Phelps of CFI-Calgary posts a statement:

I ask this of everyone — let his death mean something. Let every mention of his name and of his church be a constant reminder of the tremendous good we are all capable of doing in our communities. 

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Moss the Immortal

March 20, 2014

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

I just found this video thanks to Brook Wilensky-Lanford at Religion Dispatches, in what she calls a "Carl Sagan meets Ed McMahon moment," where Assistant Professor Chao-Lin Ku reveals to Dr. Andrei Dmitriyevich Linde that the new findings about the Big Bang support Dr. Linde's predictions. It's a beautiful moment. He can't even believe it:

Let us hope it is not a trick! I always leave with this feeling...What if I am tricked? What if I believe in this just because it is beautiful? 

It happened months ago at a CFI-Michigan event, but thanks to Cosmos, HuffPo and others are rediscovering the amazing exchange between Neil deGrasse Tyson and a 9-year-old boy about death-by-asteroid. Relive the magic.

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Death Clusters from Space!

March 19, 2014

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

We have a lot of work to do: Half of Americans believe in at least one of five proffered medical conspiracy theories. Most depressing, 37% "fully agreed that U.S. regulators are suppressing access to natural cures" and "less than a third were willing to say they actively disagreed with the theory." 20% think vaccines cause autism.

Meanwhile, 42% of Americans think climate change is "generally exaggerated," according to Gallup.  

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Steven Seagal vs. Stephen Fry vs. Steve Jobs

March 18, 2014

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

Even if you don't totally understand it (and I don't), this is huge: Scientists detect gravitational waves ("ripples in the fabric of space-time") from the literal beginning of time, pretty much nailing down the Big Bang. Nature wants to help us understand this big deal.

As promised, I opined at Friendly Atheist on how to respond to Fred Phelps' imminent demise: Do nothing. (Except be nice to each other, but have Phelps have nothing to do with it.)

HuffPost Live had me on later in the day to talk about this, with two guys who are way more important than me: HuffPo's own Paul Raushenbush and Frank Schaeffer. Point of Inquiry's Josh Zepps hosted. 

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The Measles of Mankind

March 17, 2014

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

The latest Free Inquiry features a poignant and tough review by Tom Flynn of Jennifer Michael Hecht's anti-suicide book Stay. Calling it “marvelously written,” Tom says it “excludes individuals who make clear-eyed decisions to end their lives in response to calamities whose aftermath they prefer not to experience.”

Editor of The American Rationalist, S.T. Joshi, and his prolific work on atheism, are profiled in the New York Times.

NYT also covers an experimental "God-optional" synagogue.

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10,000 Hours Down the Drain

March 14, 2014

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

There's a great article about CFI's Long Island branch in the Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald. Treasurer Phil Pollack says:

This is a philosophy and discussion group. We always have really interesting topics, and we also have a book club discussion group as well. We talk about politics, science, real history, and other aspects of the world in which we live. It’s a fascinating group of people, and we invite anyone who’s interested in experiencing our discussions to come down and try it out.

Pew has done a lot of number crunching on various religious identification surveys, and finds that while "nones" are in a three-way tie with Evangelicals and Catholics in the U.S., many of the nones are "unattached believers," theists but not under any particular sect's sway. That said, a key takeaway from this article from Cathy Lynn Grossman is that even those "unattached believers" are likely "unreachable" by any church. 

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