There is Nothing to Understand

December 17, 2012

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

My blogger's instinct this morning was to complain about the inconveniences of my weekend. Our move to a new house, the snow, the raging toddler, etc. But it was as we were boxing up the last bits of our old apartment that we read the news of the massacre at Newtown. Now, every time I have something I want to grouse about (and I feel very, very grousey), my mind flashes to the lost children and the devastated families, and how no matter how many things my 3-year-old breaks or how often he melts down, I'm so incredibly grateful that he and his baby sister are healthy and happy and here

Anyway, welcome to the new work-week, everybody. I'm glad you're here, and I'm glad you're, you know, here

Reba Boyd Wooden, chief of CFI-Indiana, and a mom and grandmother, grapples with the shooting from our nonreligious worldview:

Being a Secular Humanist takes away all of that need to try to figure out these answers about why God did or didn't do something. What was the meaning in this and why (from a religious viewpoint) did that happen. It is enough of a quandary to try to understand it from a realistic viewpoint without trying to understand God and his/her motives.

Ericka M. Johnson at Friendly Atheist has some advice for nonbelievers trying to respond and act with kindness in the aftermath of these kinds of horrible events. 

Michael De Dora rounds up some of the worst and stupidest reactions

Rachel Wagner at The Revealer:

Although certain “lessons” can always be learned from tragedy . . . we shouldn’t ever hope to understand what the shooter’s motives are. There are no forgivable motives. There is nothing to “understand.”  

Takeaway from this important Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi piece at CNN: There's no good way to talk about the shooting and its religious implications, even when it comes from the most well-meaning place. Christian pastor Max Lucado says in the article:

If you have a problem with God, shake a fist or two at him. If he’s God, he’s going to answer. And if he’s in control, he’ll find a way to let you know. 

That's a pretty big "if." 

I've not written myself with any real seriousness on the news, as so much of it has been covered, better, elsewhere, other than this little bit of nerdy allegory about some of the surrounding politics. We'll see what the coming days produce.

Let's get to a little good news: Yesterday, CFI-NYC gathered up a bunch of atheists and had 'em sing Christmas carols, all to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy relief. 

(Update: Actually, this was apparently postponed, and may go on tomorrow.) 

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis goes after our own Michael De Dora, calling him a "prominent secularist," for which I immediately made fun of him. 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom looks at the case of Alexander Aan and takes a refreshingly clear stand:

The holding of atheistic beliefs or their propagation should not be considered a criminal act.  Atheism should be viewed as an expression of conscience by individuals who do not embrace theistic beliefs and should be protected by governments under the rights to the freedom of religion and expression.  International human rights covenants, to which Indonesia is a party, protect the right to the freedom of religion and expression in any form, including electronic and internet-based modes of expression.   

CFI boss Ron Lindsay does a turn on a program called The Pink Atheist to talk about shunning and labels and the like, a topic he introduced in this blog post.

Point of Inquiry welcomes Bill McKibben, "the country's leading environmental spokesman and advocate." 

Via Kylie: New South Wales Office of Fair Trading forces an anti-vax group "Australian Vaccination Network" to change its name. 

Outgoing British Humanist Association president Polly Toynbee offers some advice in The Guardian to her successor. 

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, more than a third of Americans think the recent severe weather is a harbinger of the End of the World

Speaking of which, The Verge will begin a series this week on the coming apocalypse

Discovery: We might be living in a computer simulation AND there might be a way to find out.  

NCSE's Peter Hess responds:

It’s theologically incoherent, scientifically wrong and weakens efforts to get public policy changed. If you simply say, ‘It’s God’s will,’ it absolves people of taking serious responsibility for their actions.

CFI's Sarah Kaiser wrestles with the term "interfaith" and the pros and cons of secular groups partaking in interfaith initiatives. And don't miss Tom Flynn's comment in response for further insight. 

Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo are CFI On Campus's affiliate group of the week

NASA scientist and CSI fellow David Morrison submits himself to Skeptical Briefs for "Ask an Astrobiologist." (If that were a TV series, I would totally buy a season pass for it on iTunes.) 

Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center talks up the siginificance of the report on atheist persecution released by IHEU. 

Pakistani-American author Aftkhar Ahmad charged with blasphemy in Pakistan because he "wrote comments in several books that could be interpreted as blasphemous."  

MSN Arabia has more on the IHEU report and the real-life struggle of nonbelievers in Pakistan. 

Rick Warren pretends to be kind of principled about the Ugandan kill-the-gays bill

Psychology Today: Did you know that you paid for "psychic espionage"? 

David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine on homeopathy as the "perfect quackery." 

Tim Farley explains to The Next Web how folks are buying fake Twitter followers in really huge batches. 

New Scientist: Using game theory and the prisoner's dilemma to decide whether to let aliens know we're here. 

Lee Cowan reports on "the rise of the Nones" for CBS Sunday Morning

Where there is a niche, a market will fill it! Kimberly Winston profiles the Ha Ha Heathens, doing comedy for the hopelessly damned. Sais Keith Lowell Jensen:

It is not intended to be mean-spirited. It is just us getting together and having fun -- and being better and smarter than everybody else. 

The guy who runs Domino's Pizza will fight the "gravely immoral" injustice that is birth control. I think their pizza sucks anyway.

Do yourself a favor, and spend some time next year on a boat with Ron, Indre Vistokontas, Edwina Rogers, and Harold Kroto for CFI's big Caribbean cruise.  

Herb Silverman will not be the next Senator from South Carolina. <eyeroll> 

Yes. A baby's neck did just sprout a feather.   

Quote of the Day

The Economist readies to deal with the superstitious in the year 2013

Sensitive souls . . . will realise that from 2013 on, neither hearts nor minds will be won with 13-point plans, bakers’ dozens, presentations at sixes and sevens, least of all with 13 red roses. For anyone engaged in business, or entertaining, or courtship, it will henceforth be as necessary to inquire about numerical allergies and preferences as it already is to ask about dietary ones: 2013 seems certain to contain nuts. 

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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