War on Hanukkah, Anyone?

December 19, 2014

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

Scientists tally up the medical advice given by Dr. Oz and it's as bad as you think. Reports Julia Belluz at Vox:

[W]hat they found was disappointing but not exactly surprising: about half of the health recommendations had either no evidence behind them or they actually contradicted what the best-available science tells us. That means about half of what these TV doctors say to their millions of satellite patients is woo, and potentially harmful and wasteful woo at that. 

In Skeptical Inquirer, we have the transcript of Josh Zepps' Point of Inquiry interview with the most excellent Ann Druyan of Cosmos.

Queerty obtains internal Salvation Army documents belying their claims to not discriminate against LGBT folks. "Follow the fold and straaaaaay no more..." 

“Jesus is the reason for the season,” says Springfield, Massachusetts city councilor Bud Williams...at a menorah lighting. “Jesus was Jewish,” he said in his, uh, defense. “To me, Jesus is the messiah … I thought I was being very positive.” (War on Hanukkah, anyone?) 

Attorney General Eric Holder announces expanded anti-discrimination protections for transgender federal employees

Michelle Boorstein reports on the pope's role in the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Research suggests that being open about strongly-held religious beliefs while at work can make your work life happier. Hmm. 

Sarah Jones, at Christ Stedman's blog, says atheists can, in fact, be fundamentalists. (A response from James Croft will be posted to Stedman's blog today.) Jones writes:

The presence of misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia among atheists is evidence that atheism, by itself, isn’t the answer to the world’s problems. There is no rational basis for the belief that an atheist world would be a significantly better one, by numerous measures—and yet many passionately cling to it.

Rachel Nuwer at the BBC explores that question of whether religion will ever disappear (and as you can imagine, it looks like it's "no.") 

Ben Radford writes about the upsetting story of a child who died as a result of infection and malnutrition thanks to his parents' putting him on a "belief-based" diet.

Raphael Lataster argues against the historicity of Jesus at WaPo. 

Speaking of sort-of fictional characters whose death was momentous, last night "Stephen Colbert" left this world. He did so, I suspect, for our sins. Or CBS.

CFI On Campus's Affiliate of the Week is the Secular Society at Elon

There's been no major backlash against Muslims in Australia since the Sydbey siege, but that doesn't mean things haven't gotten awkward

Adrian Chen reports on a group of researchers in Sweden who are devoted to exposing abusive online trolls, raising a whole host of questions about privacy and free speech. 

Longreads rounds up the best science stories of 2014. (Relatedly, I have what I consider to be 2014's "paradigm shifts" in tech at my blog.)

The government of Scotland is not interested in banning the teaching of creationism in public schools. 

Fake-medicine group Universal Medicine has been working to scrub the Internet of critical websites.  

The girl who stabbed for Slender Man is found competent to stand trial. 

NASA actually has some ideas about human colonies on Venus. What now? 

In Israel, you can apparently have your conversion to Orthodox Judaism invalidated by a rabbinical court.  

Q: What does the Loch Ness Monster eat for breakfast? A: Ice pancakes.  

Quote of the Day

Step inside the Universal Life Church! Aaron Sankin at the Daily Dot digs in:

Most religions place strict requirements on their clergies. Officials typically have to believe in very similar things as the religious officials who came before them. At the very least, they are expected to believe in God. The Universal Life Church was different. [The] innovation was a religion with no official doctrine other than the vague, if admirable, “do only that which is right.” If ministers accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, that was fine. If they wanted to worship Satan, that was OK too. If they didn’t have a spiritual bone in their bodies and simply found the thought of being a minister kind of funny, something I could relate to, more power to them.

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Comments:

#1 Randy on Friday January 02, 2015 at 10:03pm

“atheism, by itself, isn’t the answer to the world’s problems”

Of course not, and it never claimed to be.  But unlike religion, it doesn’t block the path to solutions, and it doesn’t encourage dangerous, high-stakes scenarios that put everyone at risk for no good reason.

By the way, Jones might benefit from learning that sexism is spelled “sexism”, not “misogyny”.  For every claim of atheist misogyny, there is ample evidence of atheist misandry as well.  To call out only one side of it is, in fact, just more sexism.  (Chris’ original article referred to “sexism” and Jones changed it to “misogyny”)

#2 Randy on Friday January 02, 2015 at 10:18pm

“being open about strongly-held religious beliefs while at work can make your work life happier”

... at the expense of other employees.

Jesus talk implies that I’m going to Hell, because that’s what his bestselling book says.  That doesn’t make me want to work.  It makes me think my coworkers are wasting time to celebrate being stupid and heartless together.  I had to work in places where this talk went on, and now that I don’t have to, I will never do it again.

#3 Randy on Friday January 02, 2015 at 10:25pm

“Attorney General Eric Holder announces expanded anti-discrimination protections for transgender federal employees.”

That’s good news.  But it’s not enough.  In light of Leelah Alcorn’s bullycide, what is the Attorney General going to do to protect trans children from their parents, and to protect all children from having their parents’ religion imposed on them?

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