February 3, 2016
The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
A very positive development: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom writes to Secretary Kerry to urge the State Department to provide humanitarian parole for Bangladesh's secularist writers and activists in danger. CFI and a coalition of other groups did the same in December. (Catch up with the rest of CFI's policy work from last month in our Advocacy Update.)
As a side note, apparently John Kerry has been referring to ISIS as "above all, apostates," which seems really, really counterproductive.
So there's this claim that Bernie Sanders is the first non-Christian to win delegates from a major party's presidential primary, which seems like it can't be right, but Joe Lieberman didn't win any in 2004, so, if true, pretty neat, huh?
Meanwhile, there exists a kind of conspiracy theory around coin-tosses winning the Iowa Caucuses for Hillary Clinton. Don't you believe it.
John Brockman at Edge marks the 40th anniversary of The Selfish Gene by looking at the legacy of Richard Dawkins:
Dawkins, by building on the work of John Maynard Smith, William Hamilton, George C. Williams, Robert Trivers, and by adding and incorporating his own original, ingenious, and mind-bending ideas, has revolutionized the way we think about science and redefined the role of the public intellectual in western culture. It's not just about science: it's who we are, how we are, and even, how we think. In fact, he won’t even claim credit for the idea of the selfish gene. “I simply thought that way of looking at things was an imaginative, vivid way of presenting standard Darwinism. It was a new and different way of seeing it”, he has noted.
The Justice Committee of Virginia's State Senate approves what opponents are calling a "Kim Davis bill," which would allow public officials to claim a religious exemption to issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
Aida Alami at NYT reports on the conference of Muslim scholars meant to show a unified front against the persecution of religious minorities, though it still seems as though the nonreligious were not among those who they felt needed to be defended, at least it's not in the reporting.
Charles Postel at Religion & Politics takes a broad view of religious tolerance in the 2016 election, and places it in the context of campaigns past. He concludes in part:
The GOP is fielding the most spiritually diverse group of presidential candidates in its history. At the same time, these candidates are appealing to religious paranoia and intolerance in ways that are both familiar and unknown.
The Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security says the involvement of American Muslims in terrorism doubled from 2014 to 2015. But study author Charles Kurzman notes:
I try to remind readers … that among the threats to public safety that Americans face year in and year out, Islamic terrorism has played a very small role ... Even the numbers of disrupted plots remain much lower than the public debate would lead us to believe. And yet it remains the focus of so much of the security discourse in American politics.
Holy crap: Carrie Poppy and Ross Blocher went undercover into the Church of Scientology for their podcast. Holy crap.
Did you know that Pakistan's Council of Islamic Ideology gets to review the country's laws? Well it does, and as far as the blasphemy law goes, you won't be surprised to know that they say they'll look at it, but not to expect them to change it.
Last year, California enacted a law to nix religious exemptions for required vaccines for kids attending public schools, and it looks like it's working.
Earth now has a Planetary Defense Officer at NASA, Lindley Johnson. The idea is to focus on asteroids and comets that might collide with us, but I have to assume they're also watching out for things like Thanos, the Xindi, and the Borg. (Not the Death Star, of course, since that's in a galaxy far, far away, so there's no need to worry about it.)
And once we've avoided an asteroid, Luxembourg (yes, Luxembourg) wants to be the ones to mine it. (Couldn't Luxembourg, like, fit on an asteroid?)
Quote of the Day:
Justin Scott, the candidate-quizzing atheist of Iowa, is interviewed by the Washington Post. He says Ted Cruz's appearances are "like injecting Christian steroids into these voters," and when asked about what he'd like to see in terms of a "secular voting bloc" he says:
I’m having internal battles in my head. I want to see all the differently labeled nonbeliever groups come together. We all support this idea of keeping our government secular. We all are part of this movement that doesn’t want to have laws that are dictated by someone else’s religious belief.
We want to have a way of life that’s free from discrimination and oppression based on religious beliefs. If we found out that a law was going to discriminate against an entire group of people, we’d be mad enough. But if we found out that law was based in someone’s religious belief, that would cause all of us to slam on the brakes. We could all get involved in that.
Original image by Shutterstock.
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