Hyper-commercial, Blindingly Bright, Boomingly Loud

December 24, 2013

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

Six decades after his death, Alan Turing is pardoned by the Queen for the crime of "gross indecency" (being gay). I'm sure he's relieved. James Croft says we're looking at the wrong perp:

[W]e should not forget that the party who committed the true crime in this instance was the British government, for prosecuting and chemically castrating a man for an “offense” which was an offense against no one. That this “pardon” was enacted through the Royal Prerogative of Mercy strikes me wrong, as if clemency is being provided someone who has indeed done something wrong. Mercy is offered to the guilty, after all, not the innocent. 

Tom Flynn finds encouragement in a recent PRRI/RNS survey indicating that 5% of Americans are, like him, celebrating absolutely nothing this season. (The Morning Heretic will be celebrating the holiday secularly, which means no Heresy tomorrow.)

Lindsay Beyerstein interviews Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull and The Child Catchers, on the latest Point of Inquiry. 

CFI's Michael De Dora joins former atheist Leah Libresco on In the Arena, an NYC religious radio show hosted by Monsignor Kieran Harrington, talking about the holidays of course. (It's the 12/22/13 show on the list on the right.)

Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova walk out of prison on "amnesty," and are obviously very chastened:

“I think this is an attempt to improve the image of the current government, a little, before the Sochi Olympics — particularly for the Western Europeans,” she said. “But I don’t consider this humane or merciful.” She added, “We didn’t ask for any pardon.”    

The Guardian reports that climate change denialists spend $1 billion per year to confuse and lie to you. I thought it would be far more, frankly.

Skeptical Twitter artificial intelligence thing is skeptical. 

Brian Pellot shakes his head at the Becket Fund, which just bestowed an "Ebenezer Award" for "affronts" to religious liberty on Wisconsin's administration for being too inclusive, allowing the FSM and a Festivus pole in the state capitol:

[I]n giving this award is Becket, an organization that claims to champion religious freedom for all, saying that inclusivity is the most egregious offense in this year’s fabled War on Christmas? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry (or trees to decorate)? If governments erring on the side of inclusivity were really the greatest challenge to religious liberty in America and around the world, I’d resign from my job out of sheer boredom.

Islamic hardliners in Bangladesh call off a mass protest pushing for tougher blasphemy laws after police hole up their leaders, fearing another wave of violence. 

This is neat: A couple of weeks ago, WaPo posted a series of maps on American religious identification.

Jim Downard at Spokane Faith and Values recounts his experience at last October's CFI Summit, and ponders the future of our movement:

The secular community is facing a wonderful and challenging opportunity with the incoming cohort of millennials: a web-savvy bunch who are not necessarily going to turn into full blown atheists, but appear primed to embrace a tolerant secular society within which atheists can breathe very easily. 

Ben Radford is pleased by a nod to skepticism to be found in the movie American Hustle

At Friendly Atheist, I talk about what I think sets our latest Living without Religion ad apart:

Similar to our Thanksgiving-themed ad, I particularly like that it rises above some of the shouting about the “War on Christmas,” whether it’s a secular or religious holiday, and so on. Instead, it’s directed at reassuring those who question religion that there is a big, welcoming community of nonbelievers who feel the same way they do. 

A "love potion" snuck into the food of a woman's husband in Uganda reportedly kills him

Neil deGrasse Tyson lets us know that NASA's "Earthrise" photo is 45 today. Happy Earthrise! Look! I just made another December holiday! Please don't throw rocks at me.

Matthew Schmitz at First Things doesn't take offense at the "X" in "Xmas":

Xmas is, though, a much more venerable abbreviation than many suppose. The X signifies the Greek letter chi, which was traditionally combined with P, or rho, to signify the name of Christ. Constantine instructed his soldiers to scrawl the letters on their shields before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, his victory in which led to the unlikely establishment of a Christian empire. Far from a symbol of secularization, then, Xmas carries echoes of the clash of battle that inaugurated political Christendom.

Yeesh, I dunno that I'd want my jolly holiday that closely associated with that kind of violence, but hey, it's your religion. 

Daniel Luzer on the commercialization of Hanukkah, a process that began in the 19th century:

Many department store owners realized, correctly, that a gift-based Hanukkah could be very good for business. Only two percent of Americans are Jewish, but many of them settled in cities, where large department stores are easy to find. This meant that they could be a great addition to the market during the Christmas shopping season, so much so that for many gentiles this industry was really their only knowledge of Judaism, at least until relatively recently. 

Emily Matchar has a non-Christian Christmas in Hong Kong:

The whole production is hyper-commercial, blindingly bright, boomingly loud. 

And I love it.

Detached from religion, Christmas in Hong Kong is distilled into all the things I’ve always admired: the food, the light, the presents, the extravagant sense of celebration.  

An atheist display is vandalized at a senior center. Let the heathens be burned at the Bingo ball cage!  

You know, when the Friendly Atheist calls you an asshole... 

Quote of the Day

Satirical outlet Newsthump piggybacks on yesterday's report about Muslim clerks not being required to sell pork or alcohol at Marks & Spencer stores, with this story which expands the moral circle:

A supermarket worker and strict adherent to the teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has been criticised after refusing to sell customers any pasta-based products. . . . “His supreme noodliness teaches us that pasta is his body, and as such it should be revered – not consumed as part of a balanced diet like these so-call ‘scientists’ keep telling us.”

(But apparently, this kind of accommodation is not the policy of Marks & Spencer after all.) 

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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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