Moral Fuzziness

February 19, 2016

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

More more more. More exemptions, cry religious employers, horrified not only by the idea of offering legally mandated contraceptive coverage, but even aghast at having to declare their opposition to doing so! That in itself is a violation of their Religious Freedom™! We say no. Along with our friends at American Atheists, we've submitted an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the case of Zubik v. Burwell to argue that these claims of religious exemption -- exemptions from even having to exempt oneself! -- have gone too far:

“This ludicrous case is a transparent attempt to legislate from the pulpit,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice-President and General Counsel. “It showcases the intolerable consequences of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act], a bad law that has predictably been twisted into a scattershot weapon used by those who want to see their narrow religious beliefs imposed on everyone else. It is religious privilege at its worst.”  

The Christian Post highlights CFI as the sole freethought group to sign on with the International Religious Freedom Roundtable to urge the president to label ISIS's mass killings of Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Shia Turkmen, and Shabak as 'genocide.'

Working toward recovery after his stroke, Richard Dawkins writes a brief note to his readers, as ever still in awe of the workings of life and evolution. 

Lawrence Krauss takes to The New Yorker to argue that the Supreme Court could become more representative of the nation as a whole by adding to its ranks an atheist justice:

In controversial cases about same-sex marriage, say, or access to abortion or birth control, he or she would be less likely to get mired in religion-based moral quandaries. ... In addition, the appointment of an atheist Justice would send a meaningful message: it would affirm that legal arguments are secular, and that they are based on a secular document, the Constitution, which was written during the founding of a secular democracy. 

Pope Francis revokes all fluffiness for Donald Trump, saying that a person who would build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico "is not a Christian." In the same press conference, his pope-y-ness also seems to say that the Zika virus means contraception might not be all that bad, saying, "Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil." Kimberly Winston explains what is and is not remarkable about this.

Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck really were made for each other. Beck says that God (and says this in the voice of God) "allowed Scalia to die" in order to show America how important it was to elect Cruz. Yes. It all makes sense. 

"You can’t separate ’em." That's the position of Ted Cruz spokescleric Pastor Mike Gonzalez on church and state.  

After the controversy over former Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins' assertion that all monotheists "worship the same God," Mark Oppenheimer explores just how disputed the idea truly is

Joe Nickell pays tribute to Cynthia Dwyer, who died last month at the age of 84. She was among the Iranian hostages during the 1979 crisis, and later was editor for Joe's first book. 

At Lifehacker, Thorin Klosowski has advice even for those of us who consider ourselves skeptics: keep an open mind, check your biases, and watch out for the "backfire effect":

The best solution for this problem is to keep your mouth shut and listen to an opposing view. Don’t react, don’t poke holes. You can read or watch all you want, but if you’re in a conversation, you have a better chance of actually hearing what the other side is saying if you shut up and listen. Before you fight back with your opinions, take some time and just sit on that new idea.

Ben Radford examines how a photo of a dead eel became a big to-do about an alleged sea monster.

Julie Beck at The Atlantic looks at how the study of those who believe in UFOs has impacted belief in UFOs. Historian Greg Eghigian says:

Once academic science starts to talk about believers as subjects for experimental investigation or clinical analysis that’s when you start to see more strings of reports of alien abduction, which tend to involve what? Human experimentation. 

Haroon Moghul thanks Ben Carson ("I know, I know. I had the same reaction: Ben Carson is still running for President?!") for calling American Muslims "schizophrenic":

When a Muslim commits a crime, it’s terrorism. Religiously motivated. Automatically. When a white Christian male kills people, and even claims he’s doing it in the name of God, he’s “misunderstood,” “mentally ill,” or “troubled.” People of color, and other marginalized minorities, haven’t enjoyed the luxury of that definition. Until now. With one remark, Carson elevated the American Muslim to the level of the white male majority.  

Quote of the Day:

In a forum article at the Reno Gazette-Journal on whether an atheist should ever be president, Steve Bond of the Summit Christian Church says:

Denying God's existence leads to moral fuzziness because if God does not exist then there can be no objective standard of right and wrong. As a result, right and wrong are determined by "whatever seems appropriate" instead of following an objective moral standard established by God himself. For this reason, it would be foolish to elect a president who is an atheist. 

But Brian E. Melendez, an American Indian spirituality scholar, says:

I'm going to have to go out on a limb here and say that a nonbeliever president may be the better option for the common good. My rationale is that far too many former leaders have bolstered their religious affiliations and tend to lose sight of (implied) foundational lessons when it matters. I would rather have an atheist president who was committed to their understanding and pragmatism than a religious president of questionable belief.

With all the religious turmoil in the world, maybe taking a break from religion in a political sphere is a good thing. Proclaiming to be religious is more of a prerequisite for elections as a viable candidate than anything else — no one wants to say that past, present, or future leaders use religion as a deceptive tool for popular votes — but it is what it is. The idea of an atheist president is refreshing.

Thanks for going on that limb.

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Original image by Shutterstock

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Comments:

#1 Randy (Guest) on Friday February 19, 2016 at 10:47pm

“When a Muslim commits a crime, it’s [assumed] terrorism”

Citation needed.  Muslims commit crimes all the time.  But when there’s a random mass slaughter somewhere, and you try to think of any reason anyone would do it, and come up empty, it almost always turns out to be a Muslim terrorist who was very clear about their Islamist motives.

“When a white Christian male kills people…”

You mean like Robert Dear, who shot up Planned Parenthood?  We all assumed it was because of his Christian belief, and that still appears to be the accepted reason for it.  The difference is that when someone attacks Planned Parenthood, you pretty much know who it is, directly.  When someone attacks a random office party… you have to go by process of elimination.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Friday February 19, 2016 at 11:17pm

So… does the backfire effect mean that, in order to fit things into my day, I should just not read opposing views at all, because my (insert scumbag brain meme here) will confound my attempts to be fair?

Sometimes, one really does understand the other sides.

Observe now, as this comment is described as a stellar example of the backfire effect.  Clever trick.

#3 Randy (Guest) on Friday February 19, 2016 at 11:27pm

“the sole freethought group”

If true (and I assume it is) that’s distressing.

However, the article doesn’t appear to say anything at all about CFI being the only such group.

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