Prayers Are Not Pixie Dust

July 24, 2015

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

Yesterday my MacBook Pro's display went haywire, so as it is nursed back to health by Apple Geniuses, I am using my wife's older MacBook Pro with an old spinning-disc hard drive, as opposed to the SSD in my newer machine. Folks, as we embark on our march of progress morality, medicine, technology, and human rights, let us all vow to forsake the spinning-disk hard drive forever more, banish them to the dark ages of molasses-slow computing from whence they came.

NASA (which is on a freaking roll lately) announces the discovery of the most Earth-like exoplanet yet found, Kepler 452b, orbiting in the "Goldilocks zone" of its star, with a year of 385 days. CFI's president and CEO Ron Lindsay immediately appoints me to lead our initiatives there:

CFI is happy to announce that we are planning to open a branch on Kepler 452b, to be staffed by @PaulFidalgo  

I'll see you at CFI-Kepler 452b! (Or, as I will call it, "CFI-Kep.") 

Antonia Blumberg at HuffPo looks at how "nones" are finding community without the help of churches and the like, including one thing I'd never heard of before, the nonreligious "Jeffersonian Dinner":

A typical Jeffersonian Dinner ... brings together eight to 15 people over a meal to discuss a topic or cause of interest. That might be education reform, technology or global poverty. The guests don’t have to come with answers or checkbooks, but rather bring an open mind and be prepared to make connections with those seated around them.    

Asia Bibi's death sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy is now being suspended while her case in on appeal

Sen. Jim Lankford introduces a bill to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood following the deceptive "sting" videos. We have an action alert right now so you can tell your representatives not to fall for the religious right's attempts to fool Americans about what Planned Parenthood does. Meanwhile, Cathy Lynn Grossman does a deep dive into the ethical debates over the use of fetal tissue in research, beyond whether any money changes hands.

Kapya Koama at Religion Dispatches reminds us that while marriage equality is a victory in the States, it's being used to scare people in Africa by our own right wing:

In countries like Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya, same-sex couples and LGBTQI people aren’t fighting for the right to get married, they’re fighting for the right to simply exist; to not be sentenced to life in prison if a neighbor outs them to the authorities. And they’re facing a well-funded, and sophisticated anti-LGBTQI operation heavily influenced by the U.S. Christian Right. 

Berkeley, California passes a law requiring stores selling cell phones to warn customers of the radiation risk to their health, which, the New York Times reminds us, is "not actually backed by science." But so what, right? Better to frighten people than be reasonable.

Sarah Scoles at Slate looks at how Mt. Shasta in California, a dormant volcano, attracts so much paranormal and pseudoscientific interest:

As Shasta’s spiritual reputation spread, people traveled to the mountain specifically seeking that kind of experience. Today, spiritual tourists account for 25 percent of visitors. To satisfy their thirst, companies provide guided vision quests, shamanic awakenings, vortex visits, and crystal collections. Perhaps after the first of these existed, they drew in more spiritual seekers, creating more market for other organizations to pop up and cater to the same crowd, building Shasta’s celestial reputation even higher. 

Michael H Hadylaya, opining at the Jakarta Post, wants an end to religious strife in Indonesia, and backs an affirmative move toward secularism:

It is time for the state to take the neutral side when it comes to religion. Instead of favoring one or two or even six of them, it would better to shift to a secular state. ... This shift would eliminate violence based on religious differences. We can eliminate discrimination based on religion and there would be no basis to judge state affairs based on religious conduct; all judicial affairs and legislation would be based solely on the best interests of the people, and not because of their religion.

Ugh, that cross on Mount Soledad.  

Quote of the Day:

There is yet another shooting, this time in Lafayette, Louisiana. Bobby Jindal asks for prayers for the victims, and my friend Emily Hauser strikes a chord among believers and nonbelievers alike with her tweet in response:

Prayers are not pixie dust. God calls on us to do the hard work we need to do. We need new laws. 

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Original image by Shutterstock.

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 Randy on Sunday August 02, 2015 at 3:49am

Too bad that Blatter guy won’t have already set up a nice place you could use on CFI-Kep.  He was planning on taking FIFA inter-planetary until his scandal.  (Wish I was kidding).

#2 Randy on Sunday August 02, 2015 at 4:01am

“let us all vow to forsake the spinning-disk hard drive forever more, banish them to the dark ages of molasses-slow computing from whence they came. ”

Let’s not.  My understanding is that when SSDs fail, they tend to fail totally (in part due to wear-levelling).  When spinning-disks fail, they tend to do it a small area at a time, and the damage can be worked around so that it’s hardly even noticeable.  And, even when it is a catastrophic physical failure with clanking and sparks, you can still (if you fork over the money) get a lot of your data back. That’s the benefit of an established, safe, technology.

There are a lot of “trust us” noises being made, but I don’t.

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