The Morning Heresy 10/8/12: Not a Complete Loser

October 8, 2012

Your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

I spent the weekend representing CFI at the Religion Newswriters Conference in Bethesda, MD, and I met a lot of very interesting people (journos and otherwise) and made some really valuable connections. (Some of those connections are now new readers of the Heresy, so to all those new eyeballs, welcome!) The pic in this post shows the folks from the "atheist corner" of the exhibitor hall, an unholy alliance of nontheist PR flaks: Myself, American Atheists' Teresa MacBain, SSA's Jesse Galef, SCA's Lauren Anderson Youngblood, and AHA's Brian Magee (photo taken by the charming Kimberly Winston). What a neat and utterly-damned bunch. 

Here's a little bit of the reportage from the conference that might interest all you heathens...

Daniel Burke and David Gibson report on the presidential campaigns' faith representatives at the conference. I asked a question of this panel about how the nonreligious factor into their discussions and outreach, and they were pretty much befuddled, as I expected.

Jaweed Kaleem's report from the panel shows what I too noticed, that the "faith outreach" reps seemed to be doing what they could to downplay faith itself in favor of the term "shared values." 

Peter Smith reports on a panel exploring the ethics of asking candidates about their faiths, and the consensus seems to be, yeah, ask them

More news from the conference is sure to follow. (And if I missed any, let me know!) 

Rebecca Watson keeps the blasphemy arrest of Egypt's Alber Saber in the discussion, and help tout the initiative that makes us CFIers want to get up in the morning, the Campaign for Free Expression.

You've almost certainly seen this already, but holy moly. Rep. Paul Broun says that evolution and the Big Bang are "lies straight from the pit of Hell" and that the Earth is "about 9000 years old." Yes, he's on the science committee. 

Andrew Sullivan facepalms:

Of course, Broun is not stupid. He has an M.D. from the Medical College of Georgia and a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Georgia at Athens. . . . Fundamentalism is not about being dumb; it is an act of will to over-ride reality with totalist faith, so that nothing is left unresolved and everything can be explained by a single text, or a single religious leader. It is, in some ways, a neurotic response by many educated, intelligent people to live their lives according to something that cannot admit uncertainty or doubt. It's religion fused with the the totalist claims of modern political ideology. 

Peter Barglow in Skeptical Inquirer on the question of PTSD as a "real" disease.

Chris Mooney: Politicians talking about the reality of climate change is, surprisingly, "not a complete loser." But Kevin Drum throws cold water on it:

The problem is that you don't always get to talk about political issues the way you want to. Your opponents get to talk about them too.  

Stephen Goeman in HuffPo says atheists should care more about the oppression of other religious minorities

I love this: Commander Data, configure the sensor array to detect the presense of Dyson Spheres. (But yes, the Templeton folks are involved in the funding.)

Adam Lee in Salon looks at the growing pains of the atheist movement, noting, of course, "Atheism+":

The most common complaint heard from some quarters is that A+ is “divisive,” that it causes us to waste valuable time and energy on infighting rather than accomplishing the goals we all have in common. However, this is a classic example of how privilege makes it easy for people to overlook barriers that don’t personally affect them. The truth is that the atheist movement is already divided, and has been for a while 

Speaking of growing pains, Jesse Galef takes to Friendly Atheist to offer some badly-needed advice to the skepto-atheosphere to keep itself from burning itself out on drama.  

Hemant is fuming over a column by Sally Quinn in which she states, "This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian." Reading Quinn's piece, I don't think it's nearly as bad in context, more an observation about a perceived political reality, if not perfectly expressed. But I never argue with Hemant. <Waves>

Also: Hemant sees an important lesson in the NAACP's embrace of LGBT equality in its mission. 

A tweet from Bob Blaskiewicz on the appeal to authority.

Calls for a ban on chiropractics emerge in Manitoba in the wake of a possible neck-cracking-induced stroke. 

Cool job opening: "Marketing/PR for Alternative Medicine Business

Ohio psychic serves God, fights evil with her abilities. 

Coalition of secular groups backs an Ohio school board that dismissed a proselytizing teacher. 

Astronomer Derrick Pitts is open to more rigorous scientific study of unexplained aerial phenomena. Or, as Lee Speigel spins it, he's all about UFOs. 

Letter to the editor in WaPo takes the paper to task for Dana Milbank's "snide asides" about the SCA Capitol Hill briefing (on which I opined here). 

Op-ed from the representative of an agriculture lobby says studies asserting potential harm in genetically modified food, and biotech generally, are guilty of "blatant anti-technology propaganda." 

Berlinerblau: 5 misconceptions about secularism.

Quote of the Day        

Paul Rudnick in The New Yorker imagines a tell-all by Mrs. Christ:

By this point, Jesus and I had been dating for seven years, and my friends kept saying things like “So when is Jesus going to pop the question?” and “Maybe Jesus would like you better if you were crippled” and “I bet Yimmel the Moabite is starting to look pretty good right now, even with the chronic perspiration.”  

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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Got a tip for the Heresy? Send it to press(at)centerforinquiry.net! 

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

Comments:

#1 Randy on Monday October 08, 2012 at 11:17pm

Adam Lee didn’t adequately investigate what he’s reporting on, because he’s biased, as he admits a few paragraphs down.  On THIS page, he should not simply be “Adam Lee in Salon”, which implies some distance, but rather “Atheism+ proponent Adam Lee in Salon”.

The most common complaint I’ve read or heard about Atheism+ is not that it’s divisive (which was an early complaint), but that for something with Atheism in the name, it has very little to do with atheism or issues that affect atheists.  Another common complaint extends this, that the tactics of its leaders (yes, it has them) and proponents are comparable with the unsound tactics of non-skeptical theists.

Atheism is not divisible because it’s not a group.  But the various atheism movements that predate Atheism+ certainly aren’t divided by people or groups who aren’t about atheism.  If you want to see true division, take Adam’s advice and have a look at Atheism+ itself.  Not satisfied with ejecting other atheists, they also vote their own leaders and members off the island for daring to question.

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