The Paratroopers of God’s Army

April 15, 2013

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

Turkish pianist Fazil Say gets a suspended jail term for blasphemy, following a series of tweets last year the court considered to be "insulting religious values of a part of the population." 

Pope Francis appoints a commission of cardinals to advise on bureaucratic reform for the Vatican. Speaking of which, some Vatican representatives will be holding a "dialogue" with nonbelievers in Mexico.

Camp Inquiry's Karen Strachan is among the guests on the Skeptical Connections podcast. 

The Economist, citing a study on interfaith marriages: "Americans are more likely to marry someone of a different faith than someone who supports a different political party." I bet!

Mark E. Rondeau of the Bennington Banner, not a fan of the secular movement, is moved by the recent Free Inquiry issue on atheists in the military:

Rather than a complete overhaul of the chaplaincy, the introduction of non-theistic Humanist chaplains may be a tenable compromise. And tasks such as marriage counseling, for instance, may best be put into the hands of trained secular contractors. 

Kimberly Winston, at Publishers Weekly, looks at the uptick in the publishing of atheistic books, with particular note of the Paul Kurtz-founded Prometheus Press being picked up by Random House.

At The Guardian, Catherine Bennett laments that Prince Charles's "branch of magical thinking" concerning homeopathy "remains very much a part of the modern NHS." 

It really does seem like the Mormon Church is backing down on its once-rabid opposition to gay marriage.

Jerome Taylor at The Independent rounds up the recent flap over Sam Harris, New Atheism, and "Islamophobia." 

Jezebel on the preachings of Pam Stenzel, a woman who demeans high school girls for not being sexually pure according to God's plan. 

Humanist Network News interviews Dunedin, Florida City Commissioner Ron Barnette, the rarest of specimens, a nontheistic elected politician.

Ferdous Ahmad Bhuiya at Muslim Village looks at the Bangladesh crisis from the other side, as many within the country fear a secular incursion to "de-Islamize" Bangladesh

Example: The prime minister, amid anger that the country would mark the Bengali new year, asserts Bangladesh's secular-ish-ness:

Bangladesh will be a non-communal democratic country... Our country will be run in keeping with the spirit of the Madinah Charter of our beloved Prophet Mohammad that charted out principles of religious harmony and co-existence. 

The atheists, of course, remain locked up. 

Lawrence Krauss rhapsodizes at NYT about the "baby pictures" of the universe provided by the Planck probe:

Looking out at the vast universe, it appears that our own existence in the cosmos may be more capricious and insignificant than we may have thought. But this should not be cause for despair, but rather a source for awe and wonder. 

Jayson Jacoby wonders why there's such a fuss to get warning labels on genetically modified crops:

To overhaul the DNA of staple crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans so they’ll produce more food per acre and resist more vigorously the insects, diseases and other pathogens that can ruin food before it ever reaches your plate. (Which is important if you’re starving.) . . . I doubt, though, whether this bill, and others like it, would do much to advance the public good.

T. M. Luhrmann at NYT on the purported psychiatric benefits of having a therapist-patient relationship with God

In case you were curious, the GOP is still officially against gay marriage, no matter what a handful of newly-enlightened pols say. 

Teenage girls become almost literal superheroes to save their dad, trapped under an overturned tractor. 

Ellen Meder of South Carolina's Morning News reports on the log, tough slog of keeping religion out of the state's public schools as well as the struggles of atheist public school students

Voice of America video looks at the sudden (if small) dose of religious diversity now in the US Congress

Proof of Bigfoot in PA: amorphous slabs of mud! I mean footprints

BBC: Hey you know what? The folks who spot the Loch Ness Monster very often turn out to be area hotel owners

Steven Pinker is going to be this year's recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award. 

PZ Myers sounds the alarm on a new book from the intelligent design folks, Darwin's Doubt, which he calls "Stephen Meyer’s unqualified, incompetent take on the Cambrian explosion." 

Soraya Chemaly, who will be among the speakers at Women in Secularism 2, warns of the problem of rape being a cultural norm, and focuses on Catholic schools:

In my experience, and I attended three very good ones, Catholic schools are no place for children. How's that for a sweeping statement? Not done, though: It's no place for children, especially when it comes to social justice and how it's applied differently to boys and girls. 

Also speaking at WiS2, Vyckie Garrison blogs about a Dominionist pastor preaching that unbelievers are supposed to be slaves for the real Christians.

Jackson, Kentucky public schools bow to the Constitution, remove Ten Commandments displays

Scott Cawelti warns about the anti-blasphemy crisis around the world for the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier:

. . . they want the whole world to ignore freedom of expression in order to protect their own religious sensibilities. There’s a word for this: tyranny. 

Umm, Buzzfeed has, uuhhh, well, there's this atheist guy from 2007, and, uh, there's a lot of nodding, for, um, wisdom, and, well, I dunno. 

Dean Broyles, an attorney for parents opposing the teaching of yoga in public schools, is also upset at the White House for having yoga as part of its fitness push:

Let’s be honest, if the White House was actively promoting a Christian-based exercise program, I am confident there would be a huge public outcry and they would change the program. But because yoga is based in Eastern mysticism, which is not well understood, many tend to try to disingenuously downplay its religious aspects. 

Rock Hall, MD city council decides to keep on praying at meetings, but will strive to make sure everyone knows that, hey, they know what they're doing. 

Louisiana State University's paper reports on the Reason on the Bayou conference at the university, apparently the first such event for nonbelievers in the state's history. (Is that true?)

Richard Land describes his new job as head of Southern Evangelical Seminary:

My goal is to . . . produce an ever increasing number of graduates who will be the green berets and paratroopers of God’s army, and who will be used by him to win tremendous victories for Christ and His kingdom.   

(Accidental) Quote of the Day  

Pastors in St. Louis are up in arms about a "church tax" fee levied on them to pay for fire inspections, and one clergyman, Rev. Robert Jones III, says this, I assume without being conscious of the irony:

They’re trying to tax a church ... for a service that does not even exist.

And I suppose Rev. Jones wouldn't know anything about services that do not actually exist. 

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