I Really Don’t Give a Toss

January 21, 2014

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

It's the first day back after a long weekend, so it's a long Heresy, folks. Get comfy. 

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion calls for the repeal of blasphemy laws:

At the national level, blasphemy laws are counter-productive, since they may result in de facto censure of all inter-religious or belief and intra-religious or belief dialogue, debate and criticism, most of which could be constructive, healthy and needed. In addition, many blasphemy laws afford different levels of protection to different religions and have often proved to be applied in a discriminatory manner. 

We're already getting excited about Women in Secularism III, with some fantastic return speakers, and a bunch of excellent first-timers as well. Among the newcomers to WiS is Barbara Ehrenreich, who has a new piece in The Atlantic about how expensive it is to be poor

Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni says he opposes the new anti-gay bill passed by the legislature, but says LGBT people are "abnormal" and need "economic rehabilitation," whatever that means.

The group Front Line Defenders is taking nominations for its award, which goes to someone who "through non-violent work, is courageously making an outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of the human rights of others, often at great personal risk to themselves." We can think of a few. 

Horrifying: Two babies killed, two children injured, by stabbing in an exorcism

SPAR host Jamila Bey takes to IndieGoGo to fund a radio documentary project on First Amendment issues.

The House GOP chooses to head the committee that tackles climate science Rep. David Schweikert, who doesn't believe in climate science

The people of Utah, yes Utah, are evenly divided on same-sex marriage, so Josh Marshall declares the national debate effectively over

Robert Sheaffer fills us in on the advances in UFO hoax technology in Skeptical Inquirer.  

CFI's Joe Nickell beams over the upcoming Cosmos project of Neil deGrasse Tyson. 

Tim Farley explains how Don Colbert, hawker of alt-med anti-aging stuff, has been shadily buying promotional links and scheming Google's search bots.

Good morning to Rosetta, the comet-chasing probe, which has just woken up, and is heading for a meeting with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August. 

Robin Ince is unimpressed by cries of "oppression" against Christians in the UK, for example reminding us that "same-sex marriage is not compulsory; it is very much an opt-in scenario." 

Looks like Answers in Genesis is going to stream the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate live. (By the way, Ken thinks any of you who don't like this debate are silly and hilarious.)

An aikido dojo in Canada made men and women students work separately because of one Muslim man's requirement he not touch any females. Some people are really mad, some don't care.

13-year-old Jahi McMath is brain dead, but her classmates are being led to believe that she will be okay if they only pray hard enough.  

Breaking news: Catholic cardinals think homosexuality is bad

Shreveport, Louisiana was looking at repealing its antidiscrimination ordinance, but backed off thanks to public pressure, which included Pamela Raintree, a transgender woman, who dared a Bible-quoting councilmember to stone her to death right there:

I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb, in case that your Bible talk isn't just a smoke screen for personal prejudices. 

Mexican priest says (this is the Daily News, so, grain of salt) he performs exorcisms on cartel members who have done pretty much the worst things you can imagine. If I were in the middle of that nightmare, I might believe in demons, too.

Within two years, former Pope Benedict defrocked almost 400 priests involved in the abuse mega-scandal. 

Pennsylvania legislator who wants "In God we trust" displayed in public schools says atheists should be cool with the idea, since for them, "God" can mean "materialism, or something..." 

Guardian columnist swoons all over astrologer Susan Miller, which makes you wonder what's going on over there. Admitting to one wrong prediction, Miller says, I assume without irony, "I was looking at Taurus, and all along I should have been looking at Uranus." You don't say.

Sharon Hill comes down on a credulous CNN report about fish oil as a "brain healer." 

University of Connecticut, a public university, hires a football coach who means to "make sure [players] understand that Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle." No, that wasn't a Ned Flanders line, this guy really said that.

Robyn Blumner waves goodbye to her Tampa Bay Times audience as she heads off to lead the US branch of the Dawkins Foundation:

There is an axiom in American politics, real or perceived, that it's nearly impossible to get elected as a nontheist. Astoundingly, of 535 members of Congress, there are no "out" atheists, although atheists make up a larger proportion of the U.S. population than Jews or Muslims. This political exclusion needs to change, and it will if atheists would stand up and be counted. 

Clergy Project chief Catherine Dunphy was the guest on BBC's Everyday Ethics podcast (scroll to the January 5 episode). 

After being hit by a bolt of lightning, Christ could use a redeemer for his blown-off finger. Said one priest, “They say lightning does not strike the same spot twice. But with the Christ it does.”

NYMag talks to Skip Vaccarello, who wants to win some coverts for Christ in Silicon Valley

Oregon cake shop charged with violating civil rights by refusing to provide cakey services for same-sex couple. 

Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh reportedly imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for "spreading atheism" and for wearing long hair. 

Burglary case in which the defendant is slipped a religious tract urging confession by a deputy sheriff does not end in a mistrial. 

CFI's Ben Radford reports on a new study about psychic powers that "provides a plausible, proven mechanism by which people can sense changes they are not aware of perceiving." 

More brain science on the difference between the gray matter of believers and nonbelievers:

[S]ubjects with religious beliefs based on doctrine, such as knowledge of religious scripture, tend to use pathways associated with language when they contemplate religion. However, non-religious subjects tend to use pathways associated with visual imagery when they contemplate religion, according to the study. 

Hope? Pope. Pope? Hope

Sunday Assemblies take root in Chicago

Quote of the Day

Judy Marsh, writing a letter to the Guardian on the feeling of irrelevance atheists experience in the public discourse:

I really don't give a toss what happened before the big bang. My own preoccupation is how on earth we are going to take care of our planet because, sure as anything, God is not a bit bothered about our potential destruction of it. Being an atheist is about taking responsibility for our own actions, putting our raison d'être inside not outside. We have every right to have the same courtesy extended to us as I extend to people of faith.

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Image via Shutterstock

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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