September 26, 2016

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

CFI is the freight train of freethought, I tell ya. This past weekend we held a very moving, evocative, and inspiring Women in Secularism 4 conference, one of those "trust me, you wish you'd been there" kind of events. I did my best to give a sense of what was happening at CFI Live, so go check it out now

And THIS week, we're all-in on defending dissent, because International Blasphemy Rights Day is this Friday. So starting today and every day this week, we're giving you a little something to do to help make an impact in the struggle for free expression (with some badass memes), culminating in a big announcement on Friday. Come back every day this week to the Campaign for Free Expression.

Just in time for this important week, Joelle Fiss at the Brookings Institution has a new report on blasphemy laws in the digital age. Also, Victoria, British Columbia proclaimed Friday to be International Blasphemy Rights Day in the city. Friendly Atheist has a bunch of posts on recent blasphemy-related pressure, arrests, and killings: In JordanIndia, and even Ireland.

Oh! Oh! And it's debate day! And we're taking advantage of that to wedge the blasphemy issue into the national conversation. Luckily for Donald Trump, he's been magically protected from satanic attack.

And! And! The newsletter. Cause & Effect issue 64, which I hope you will still need and feed. Man I need a day off. 

Last week, PRRI dropped a big ol' report showing that the "nones" are now the biggest "faith group" in the U.S., at 25%. That's a bit up from the 23% Pew gave us last year. Don't be fooled, though, Christians as a whole still way outnumber us, and most of those nones are still believers. 

People are apparently really afraid of clowns these days. Ben Radford, the evil-clown expert, wonders whether going on clown-lockdown is a new normal

I haven't linked to stories about Colin Kaepernick and the anthem, thought I probably should have, being a free expression story and all (my brain shuts down sometimes when sports are involved). Well now I have no excuse, because here's our own Michael De Dora with his thoughts on the issue:

I cherish and support the individual rights to freedom of speech and protest, and by consequence the right of all citizens and athletes to not stand for the national anthem. I also fully support their intent, to raise consciousness regarding race in the United States. But I did not always hold these positions. And I would urge those who feel outraged simply because a professional athlete who they don’t even know is kneeling during a song to reflect on their feelings. 

David Bergman at looks at the killings of secularists in Bangladesh through the lens of survey data, which in 2014 showed that nearly half of the population of Bangladesh felt there was at least some justification for acts like this. 

Evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen writes at NYT about how birds living in big cities show that evolution can happen faster than you probably think

Rep. David Brat (the guy who primaried out Eric Cantor) says not having mandatory Bible study in schools is "institutional racism." ⊙﹏⊙ 

Milo Beckman at FiveThirtyEight looks at how religion and education are the big predictors for how white people will vote. 

Also at FiveThirtyEight, Leah Libresco shows that there is some disparity over what Christians think will make nonbelievers uncomfortable, and what actually does.

NASA is not interested in what its observations about the Earth's axis shift does to your Zodiac sign. (I'm now an Ophiuchus, whatever that means.)

I haven't read this piece by Sam Kriss titled "Village Atheists, Village Idiots," but I'm letting you know it exists. 

ABC News covers the story of Kristen O'Meara, who I mentioned previously, the mom who was anti-vax, and then her kids got sick with rotavirus, and then she changed her mind. As Jake Tapper tweeted, "Ugh."

Quote of the Day

Gretta Vosper, the atheist minister in the United Church of Canada who may be removed from her position, explains her position and her situation in her own words.

I am aware that there are many who are angry because of what they suppose my purposes have been as I have attempted to make a conversation public. It wasn’t supposed to be a conversation about the fact that I’m an atheist (as well as a theological non-realist and a non-theist). It was supposed to be a conversation about prejudice, religious extremism, the need to struggle for the right to freedom from religion wherever religion was used to oppress, deny rights, incite hatred. It was supposed to invite The United Church of Canada, a tolerant, diverse, and inclusive denomination to join the struggle for the protection of individuals who were, as it turned out, soon to be targeted for assassination. In that, I’ve clearly failed.

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Photo credit: minishorts via / CC BY-NC-ND

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The Morning Heresy: "I actually read it." - Hemant Mehta


#1 Randy (Guest) on Monday September 26, 2016 at 4:31pm

“I haven’t read”

Based on the first two paragraphs, you have made a wise decision.  I stopped there.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Monday September 26, 2016 at 4:36pm



#3 Randy (Guest) on Monday September 26, 2016 at 4:46pm

“athlete who they don’t even know”

Well, we hold opinions on this because the news shoves it at us.  What is the reason to carve this subject off, and not opine?

There is no ethical or legal free speech right for an employee to present a message counter to that of their employer, while they are on the clock.  By disrespecting the anthem, Colin appears to be doing that.  By permitting him to do it, the NFL is demonstrating that the anthem at games is apparently not that important to them, which should make us all wonder what the point is of playing it, only so they can also mock it simultaneously.

Regarding the underlying issue, the statistics speak for themselves.  In summary, while black people are over-represented in their interactions with police, it is white people who are over-represented in being shot dead per interaction.  But the key thing in all the data is that it is MEN of all races, who end up dead.  This is only one piece of the system that needs urgent reform for men, from legislation to policing to prosecution and sentencing and ultimately to punishment.

#4 Randy (Guest) on Monday September 26, 2016 at 4:51pm

(Also, one should note, being a high school student or even a college student is a quite different situation from being an NFL player, and necessarily comes with different rights and responsibilities).

#5 Darcy (Guest) on Monday September 26, 2016 at 7:38pm

I’m also Ophiuchus. It means you get to confuse people who ask what your sign is.
I find it extremely gratifying.

#6 Mario (Guest) on Tuesday September 27, 2016 at 1:00am

“Don’t be fooled, though, Christians as a whole still way outnumber us…”

And some of us know when to use semicolons (and/or dashes).

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