The State of Our Meatball

February 25, 2014

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

The state of our Meatball is strong (the "meatball" is the loving nickname we have for the logo): CFI releases its annual report for 2013, "Progress Report: Advances in Advocacy, Community, and Inquiry." It's mighty pretty, is full of really inspiring developments for our organization, and has a free toy inside. Okay, there's no toy, but you can read it anyway. 

Gabriel Sherman is the guest on Point of Inquiry, talking to Josh Zepps about his big exposé on Fox News Supreme Leader Roger Ailes.

Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld in Skeptical Inquirer sift the facts from the fad when it comes to the reporting on -- and selling of -- brain science.  

Pew posts a map of social hostilities around the world involving religion.  

During what Michael Weiss at Daily Beast reports as a "show trial" conviction anti-government protesters in Russia, Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are arrested again, protesting the convictions:

Not many people would invite two back-to-back prison trips after two years of hard labor. Tolokonnikova may have had her moment of adoring fandom at the Barclays Centre with Madonna and Yoko Ono a few weeks back, but she made it clear that her native absurdistan is where she prefers to get down to business.  

I can't even believe this isn't a parody, but apparently some well-connected right-wing lobbyist is pushing legislation that would ban gay athletes from the NFL. Dude, come on.

Jonathan Stars gives a presentation with CFI-Michigan tomorrow entitled "Amazing Future of Computing: Will We Be the Borg?" Man, I hope the answer is yes. 

The folks at Mars One, the privately-run mission to send humans to Mars, wants the recent fatwa barring Muslims from participating to be rescinded. 

Some of the folks who voted for Arizona's crazy anti-gay law are showing signs of losing their nerve

Paul Raushenbush stares into the Pandora's Box of states passing anti-gay laws based on "sincerely held religious beliefs."  

Chris Stedman wants atheists to stop comparing religious belief to mental illness:

There is a great deal of suffering in the world, and atheists and theists share in it. Rather than making unfair cheap shots—especially at the expense of a marginalized group of people that includes some atheists—we should express compassion for people who have experiences that differ from our own and seek to understand them. And, importantly, we have more in common than it may seem.

Jason Torchinsky at Jalopnik disassembles the claims by the makers of FuelShark that their device can improve your car's gas milage, but that it is good for "casting a novel blue glow in your footwell." 

Isaac Chotiner at TNR on why, despite implications to the contrary, loving your pet is not the same as god-belief:

For starters, to say that my love for my cat is not based on reason is quite different from the belief that God exists. The latter is objectively false, or perhaps very, very unlikely. The former is a matter of feelings. Of course people's feelings are irrational; but not all feelings involve making claims about reality. 

Esther Inglis-Arkell on how just about anyone can be a psychic (or part of any paranormal phenomenon) if you just apply the "near enough" principle. Coincidentally, this is also the principle by which my wife and I fix things around the house.

Herb Silverman, reflecting on the snakebite death of snake handling pastor James Coots, thinks we should largely leave each other's religious beliefs alone, even if it means adopting "a live and let die attitude." 

Roger Housden explains the central message of his book, Keeping the Faith Without a Religion:

The faith I am interested in does not need a church a mosque or a synagogue. It is not a faith in anyone or anything. Far from being irrational, this kind of faith is a non-rational intuition of the rightness of life as it is expressing itself in the moment, however dark or wrong it may look. It is a non-rational intuition of the truth, the beauty and goodness that lies alongside the darkness in any human heart.

Maybe it makes more sense in the book. 

Tennessee considers legislation to allow students to celebrate faith-based holidays in public sch----wait, isn't the war on Christmas over for the year? This guy is late. 

Oh man, Dave Silverman is going to CPAC. Dude.

Quote of the Day

Martial arts expert Jeff Westfall condemns the pseudoscience and magical thinking that pervades his profession:

Whether you label it Chi, Ki, Prana, “The Force”, or Empty Force it has never to my knowledge been proven to exist through robust, double-blind, replicated scientific experiments. If it is energy, where are the scientific instruments that can detect its levels? Is this energy chemical, radiant, nuclear, kinetic, electro-magnetic, mechanical, or ionizing? Is this energy in the form of waves or particles? At the risk of building a straw man, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that practitioners and apologists for these arts would say that science doesn’t know everything, and that “chi power” is as yet unexplained by science. If this were plausible, wouldn’t it follow that a large number of physicists would be pursuing a future Nobel Prize by attempting to prove the existence of this vital energy? 

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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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Comments:

#1 Mark W. on Tuesday February 25, 2014 at 11:34am

From now on, all of my statements will begin with:
“Far from being irrational, this is a non-rational…”

#2 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 at 2:22pm

If religion is not a mental illness, then I have no choice but to hold these people responsible for what they’ve done.  Is Chris willing to do the same? 

Of course, Chris seems to have no credentials in the study of psychology, so he’s not well-equipped to tell us about what is a mental illness and what isn’t.  But it seems clear that being high-functioning does not mean that one isn’t mentally ill. 

As for religion being associated with well-being, I dispute that.  I could mention the snake-handling snake-bite victim (and I just did).  Or I could mention the un-vaccinated, and those who refuse science-based treatment.  But I’ll also point to sexual shame (costing not just gay religious people a decade off their lives, but indeed even non-religious gay people simply living in the community). And I’ll point to the higher divorce rates among the religious.  Family breakup is not associated with health.

Needless to say, I disagree with Chris on the importance of finding common ground and understanding with religion.  We don’t have time for games any more.  They had their run.  It’s someone else’s turn.

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