Spiritually Itchy

July 29, 2013

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

CFI's Student Leadership Conference has just wrapped up, and I think it's safe to say that almost everyone has been inspired (and exhausted). Most importantly, though, folks laughed at the jokes in my talk, so that makes it an undeniably big success. 

While the secular youth were getting jazzed to change the world, this weekend also brought the Pope-a-palooza, as he made his big trip to Brazil (where he picked up a bunch of soccer jerseys). Blowing many people's minds, when asked about gay priests, he said:

If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? 

He should talk to Desmond Tutu, who has no interest in worshipping an anti-gay God:

I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. 

Today at about 1:30pm ET, CFI chief Ron Lindsay will be on HuffPost Live to talk about parents' right to homeschool for religious reasons. Meanwhile, WaPo today looks at the huge knowledge gap for kids homeschooled by religious parents:

By the time [this homeschool student] was 16, he had never written an essay. He didn’t know South Africa was a country. He couldn’t solve basic algebra problems. 

Stefany Anne Golberg explores the roots of a boom in ghost-belief in 19th century America, discovering that "antebellum northeastern America was spiritually itchy." 

At Friendly AtheistI play around with the uber-Bible app YouVersion (which has been downloaded 100 million times!), and get a sense of what the hubbub is about.  

FFRF's moves against the Star of David at the Ohio Statehouse's Holocaust museum (and American Atheists' endorsement of said moves) engenders a great deal of criticism and reflection from the movement. James Croft wants us to get around the inflammatory nature of the controversy and address the substance: 

[A]re the FFRF correct to assert that such a memorial violates legal precedents preventing entanglement of church and state in America?; Do we wish to live in a society which would prevent such a memorial from being erected at some public expense?

Daniel Fincke is fed up with the whole shebang, saying he is "aghast, livid, embarrassed, ashamed, and offended . . . I want to repudiate this blind reactionary atheism in this instance with no qualification."  

NYT: Radicalized Muslims are flooding into Syria to fight with the rebels:

[T]here is growing concern that they will come back with a burst of jihadist zeal, some semblance of military discipline, enhanced weapons and explosives skills, and, in the worst case, orders from affiliates of Al Qaeda to carry out terrorist strikes. 

Also at NYT, a major piece on the crisis faced by orange growers as a bacteria threatens the crop, with efforts to fight it raising fears of GMOs.

At Skeptical Inquirer, Ben Radford tries to carefully unpack the Adam Lanza fake-death-certificate conspiracy theory. 

Speaking of conspiracy theories, one now emerges asserting that George Zimmerman's post-trial car crash rescue was staged

Sharon Hill at CSICOP.org declares that science "is not the be-all and end-all method of how to solve every problem," and should be applied "as needed." 

Jessica Bluemke interviews Indian skeptic leader Sanal Edamaruku

Turkey's director of religious affairs calls for respect for atheists because God said so:

It was quite important that, with this statement, [Mehmet] Gormez based freedom from religion on not only “modern law,” but also religion itself. The atheists have the right to deny God and express their atheistic thoughts not because Muslims had to respect modern liberalism, but because they had to respect individuals’ God-given freedom to believe or not to believe.

Not so lucky in Iran, where the judiciary chief said that anyone who wants secularism is a "seditionist." 

If you're Clarence Darrow, and you're defending John Scopes, and you're going toe-to-toe on the Bible with William Jennings Bryan, who do you call? A rabbi

3 out of 4 voters under the age of 35 (damn I just missed it) think Republicans who deny climate science are "ignorant, out of touch or crazy." Speaking of which, here are the 8 Republicans on the Senate's science committee, and how they feel about climate science. Try not to throw up.

Amelia Thomson-Deveaux says the Republican panic over the idea of humanist chaplains stems from their fear that such a thing would - gasp! - acknowledge that this is not, in fact, a Christian nation. 

Noah Millman on thoughtful belief:

In my experience, only a very small minority of people in any religious tradition truly affirm that religion’s teachings intellectually, and most of the world’s religions aren’t organized around creedal affirmation anyhow. For the overwhelmingly majority of people, they want to be able to live with their church – to experience life cradled within its arms – not to think with it. 

Jessa Gamble looks at the work of Melanie Rudd, whose aim is to "define and measure awe." 

PZ plays the entropy card against the transhumanists on immortality:

Why is it impossible? I’ll cite the laws of thermodynamics. Entropy rules. There is no escaping it. When we’re looking for ways to prolong life indefinitely, I don’t think there’s enough appreciation of the inevitability of information loss in any system in dynamic equilibrium, which is what life is — a chemical process in dynamic equilibrium.  

According to the Marine Corps, atheism means a "high risk" for destructive behavior

Jeffrey Taylor wants believers to take seriously atheists' substantive objections to religion, not presume that a better sales pitch would have kept apostates in the flock.   

Rachel Held Evans agrees that, for her generation, religion needs to cut it with the marketing

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance. We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against. We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. 

Rick Warren returns to the pulpit for the first time since his son's suicide, and addresses the harsh perceptions of mental illness:

In any other organ of your body breaks down there's no stigma. But if your brain doesn't work, why are you ashamed of that?

Turns out that children to not begin to grasp the meaning of death until at least age 4 or so. Virginia Hughes parses out what they do and do not understand, and when. 

Ashley Feinberg at Gizmodo classifies three kinds of UFO faux-encounters

Kansas City Atheists mobilize to help a local charity that was recently burglarized. 

Alt-med is getting a boost from the Affordable Care Act, as long as its practitioners can maneuver through the fine print

German scientists manage to, I kid you not, FREEZE LIGHT for a whole minute. I don't even. 

It's chupacabras all the way down. 

Loch Ness Monster, found, in your keyboard

Quote of the Day

Isaac Asimov to Carl Sagan, in 1985:

I have just finished The Cosmic Connection and loved every word of it. You are my idea of a good writer because you have an unmannered style, and when I read what you write, I hear you talking. One thing about the book made me nervous. It was entirely too obvious that you are smarter than I am. I hate that.

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul, Ed, Lauren, anyone who can fire them, or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

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