Poisonous and Medieval

February 11, 2014

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

It's a heavy and fascinating Point of Inquiry, as Josh Zepps talks to addiction expert Stanton Peele about some of his contrarian views on recovery, particularly in the context of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. 

Justin Vollmar, head of the Virtual Deaf Church, comes out to his flock, in ASL of course, as an atheist, and "joins forces" with the Clergy Project, calling the whole thing a "profound wonderful change in my life."  

Meanwhile, Clergy Project director Catherine Dunphy is interviewed at Faith in Feminism:

It is a little odd, feeling like a science or social experiment, but ultimately we recognize that we are doing something revolutionary just by saying that non-believing religious leaders exist.

So, what happened to Nessie, anyway? CFI's Ben Radford looks at why we haven't heard from the great beastie in a while. 

Darwin Day activities are already underway, and CFI On Campus has a handy guide to some student events. (And speaking of handy, we now have a handy map of CFI's U.S. branches.)

This Saturday, the CFI-Austin community will hold a Darwin Day "Science and Myth" event with talks and panel discussions. 

Jaweed Kaleem takes a deep look into the plight of religious minorities of all stripes in Pakistan:

All religious minorities in Pakistan face daily reminders of their plight, including discriminatory laws, forced conversions, and bombs and shootings aimed at minority-sect Muslims, such as Shiites and Ahmadis. According to human rights groups, public school textbooks regularly demonize minorities and emphasize the nation's Islamic roots over contributions from people of other faiths.

This is...different. The Raelians, yes of UFO-cult fame, are funding a female genital mutilation reconstruction effort in Africa, and it's not at all clear it can actually be done. (Carrie Poppy wrote of her undercover experience with the Raelians for the Skeptical Inquirer website last year.) 

Wow, the University of Virginia has a "paranormal activity lab." Jeremy Simington, who sent me the tip, writes to me, "They solve crimes with the help of Thomas Jefferson's ghost." I LOL'd. 

March 9, CFI-DC hosts Anthony Pinn, who has a new memoir. If you've never seen this guy in person, and you're in the area, make sure you go. Brilliant guy.

SETI's Seth Shostak says we might very well discover actual intelligent alien life by 2040:

Instead of looking at a few thousand star systems, which is the tally so far, we will have looked at maybe a million star systems [by 2040]. A million might be the right number to find something.

More good stuff from Isaac Chotiner, who says secularism works out just fine for Christians. "Religion, much to the dismay of diehard atheists, has a way of adapting itself to current conditions." 

CFI-Canada (which acts independently of CFI-Transnational, which is us) gets a new executive director, Eric Adriaans. 

"People are more open as far as hearing the word of God, and speaking the word of God," said a guy who goes to a nudist church in Virginia.

RealClearPolitics looks at which candidates the Freethought Equality Fund is giving its new PAC money to

Astrology is increasingly perceived as a legitimate science by Americans, so we may as well just give up. 

Nonprofit Quarterly: When it comes to who must pay taxes, what is and is not a "church" can get murky.

Archdiocese of St. Louis turns over the names of priests accused of sexual abuse, following a court order. 

Paul Valley of the Catholic weekly The Tablet opines in NYT that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was right to go after the Vatican for the sex abuse crisis, but "blundered into a wider attack on Catholic teachings on contraception, homosexuality and abortion." 

Tony Perkins of the far-right Family Research Council gets to post a sticky-sweet, red-white-and-blue, hooray-for-America op-ed at RNS arguing against the contraceptive mandate, wrongly stating that the mandate "will set a precedent of government intervention in determining who the faithful are, what faith is and where, when and how that faith may be lived out." 

Hospital employees tells a couple they, as atheists, should not be allowed to reproduce. Hospital apologizes

An apostolic prophet in Zimbabwe drowns in a river, and by "drowns" I of course mean "abducted by mermaids." 

Sandy Bauers at the Philly Inquirer tries to sniff out the "dark funding" of climate-change denial. It's like dark matter, I think, it's everywhere, but you can't see it.

Here's an area where skepticism breeds a lot of tension: doubting kids' food allergies.

More wingnut-vs.-wingnut fun. Rev. Mark H. Creech of the Christian Action League attacks Pat Robertson for dissing Ken Ham and creationism, accusing Robertson of "blasphemy." <passes popcorn>

A guy creates a Christian Mingle profile posing as someone "who lives his life strictly in accordance with the Old Testament," and you can imagine that things get ugly

So what, exactly, is "Christian sexy?" Learn that and more from a Reddit "confessional" from an atheist back-up singer for a Christian pop act. There is some, ahem, language. (h/t vorjack

Quote of the Day

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate reviews a new HBO documentary on evolution and its discontentsQuestioning Darwin, and has this lightbulb moment about creationism:

Creationism, the documentary reveals, isn’t a harmless, compartmentalized fantasy. It’s a suffocating, oppressive worldview through which believers must interpret reality—and its primary target is children. For creationists, intellectual inquiry is a sin, and anyone who dares to doubt the wisdom of their doctrine invites eternal damnation. ... This view isn’t benign or wacky: It’s poisonous and medieval.   

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