The Morning Heresy 6/29/12: If We Do Not Destroy Ourselves

June 28, 2012

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

We're putting it in writing. Today CFI announced the introduction of a new policy on hostile conduct and harassment at conferences. CFI's President and CEO Ron Lindsay has published two blog posts on the topic: a short-and-sweet summation of the policy and its reasoning, and a "tl;dr" version that goes into much more detail. In the longer post, Ron hopes that the recent furor over this general subject can be made more constructive:

Finally, I note that there has been a fair amount of discussion in the blogosphere during the past several weeks regarding harassment at conferences and related topics. [. . .] I’ll limit myself to saying that although vigorous debate is generally a good thing, we should also be careful about interpreting a mistaken claim or assertion as indicative of a flaw in character. Unfortunately, it’s not just the religious who tend to demonize the opposition. In engaging in debate with our fellow skeptics/atheists we should be trying to build bridges, not burn them. 
You can read the new policy in full here

Sam Shore recaps at length his experience at the CFI Student Leadership Conference (omits any mention of my presentation -- yes, I noticed), declares his love of the logo, and writes:

If it hasn’t yet been made abundantly clear, this conference is a superb way to spend a weekend if you want to be a leadership force in the secular community. The Center has phenomenal resources at its disposal, the attendees could very well be the best friends you’ll ever meet, and the passion of the organizers is clear in the quality of the event they put on. 

Umbridge aside, I very much agree. 

UNIFI's Aaron Friel highlights the moving presentation by CFI's Debbie Goddard:

Her success from there on speaks for itself, being involved in growing secular organizations across the nation, in promoting diversity and equality and reaching out to groups not just in the US but across the world. Even to the heart of Africa in Kenya and Nigeria, secular ideas, humanist values have thrived. 
Amid the outcry to support Alexander Aan, one petition we particularly like is one aimed at the White House. Go sign it, as we need to get it to 25,000 to guarantee a response from the administration.

What was that big thing that went down yesterday? Oh yeah! Dewey defeats Truman! Oh wait.

SCOTUS Healthcare Analysis: 

  • David Gibson posits that the Court may have handed the religious right something they can rally against. 
  • Gibson also rounds up the various groups' foot-stamping complaints. 
  • Sarah Posner lays out the right's strategy to undermine the newly-upheld health care law on (false) religious freedom grounds.
  • Michelle Boorstein at WaPo: religious groups "promised a fight."

Yesterday also saw the launch of a new organization in our movement: Secular Woman:

Secular Woman envisions a future in which women without supernatural beliefs have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently as respected voices of leadership in the secular community and every aspect of American society. 
The new group's board is currently staffed by president Kim Rippere, as well as Brandi Braschler, Bridget Gaudette, and Mary Ellen Sykes. 

Glenn Beck's The Blaze is, of course, weirdly fascinated

Adelle Banks: Michelle Obama contradicts much of what we stand for--to members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, she "held up the church as the place to deal with political issues and the catalyst for getting people to the polls."  

Phil Plait brings our attention to the choral music of Kenley Kristofferson, whose music is based upon the words of Carl Sagan. (I listened -- it's good!) 

The piece opens with:

The sky calls to us.
If we do not destroy ourselves,
we will someday venture to the stars. 

At The Nation, Katha Politt is panicking over the troubling poll numbers about belief in creationism:

Why does it matter that almost half the country rejects the overwhelming evidence of evolution, with or without the hand of God? After all, Americans are famously ignorant of many things—like where Iran is or when World War II took place—and we are still here. One reason is that rejecting evolution expresses more than an inability to think critically; it relies on a fundamentally paranoid worldview.  
ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson: Humans will just "adapt" to rising sea levels.  

Rob Boston celebrates NJ governor Chris Christie's temporary surrender of his school voucher plan.

WaPo: Catholic priest uses exorcism as a way to sexually assault. Via Sarah Morice-Brubaker, the group to which the priest belongs has a long history of questionable conduct.

Austin Dacey accuses United Airlines of blasphemy of the worst kind:

I demand that you remove at once all remaining traces of “Rhapsody in Blue” from the safety videos now being shown on United and Continental flights. 

RNS's Jana Riess: "Can Mormon voters put Romney over the top? Nope." 

NYT: If Asaad goes, Syria's Christians could be in trouble. 

Owner of the (Steve) Ahlquist-opposed Providence cross to atheists: Go away.  

Archbishop of Canterbury is frustrated by Christians who indulge in homophobic bigotry. 

NASA loses a chance to learn more about climate science in Thailand due to skepticism of their intents. 

LiveScience: Baltic Sea "UFO" would be bad for business if it's just a rock. 

Russia struggles with how - rather than whether - to punish blasphemy offenses. The Orthodox Church writes to Putin to protect their fragile feelings.

Via Kylie, video of Dawkins' full address to the Global Atheist Convention. "Let's try to redesign or morality."

Meanwhile, the UN is presented with a "Joint declaration on crimes against freedom of expression" 

Palm Beach Post talks to Liz Murad of Humanists of the Treasure Coast as they prepare to fight "Amendment 8," which opens the door wide to public funding of religion. 

Greta expresses relief at Todd Stiefel's approach to discussing harassment policies. 

At AlterNet, she is exasperated by willful misunderstandings of atheists' capacity for morality and meaning:

. . . for many atheists, the fact that consciousness and love and grief and such are physical products? This actually invests them with more meaning.  

Rod Dreher accuses liberals of "ideological fervor" in their opposition to Louisiana's funding of religious schools: 

If I had to choose between a Christian academy that taught bad science, or a public school as bad as what many Louisiana parents and their children have to deal with (not in my parish, thank heaven), then I’d choose the fundie school, and try to figure out a way for my kid to have supplementary science education elsewhere.  

NYT: It's hot as hell, but Hasidic Jews don't care:

“I think I’m not as hot as other people because the sun is not on me,” said Chany Friedman, who was shopping recently in Borough Park, Brooklyn, with two of her five children in tow, wearing a sweater and dense stockings in addition to other concealing clothing. “If I’m covered, the sun is not on me. I’m happy that I’m not exposed to the world.” 
The Golden Rule appears in many religions, and HuffPo puts them in a slideshow

The silver lining on recent polls on American attitudes toward atheists, from David Niose:

Having climbed from 18 percent to 54 percent, seculars have tripled their approval ratings in about half a century, and such gains are unmatched by any other group.  
Yes, we need a sustainable Earth. But will someone please think of sustainable outer space? Oh, they did

Word Magnets for Skeptics: The iPad app. What? 

Quote of the Day     

Hemant Mehta, on a Fox News report on how your Zodiac sign determines your diet:

You know your theory is full of shit when even Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade say out loud that they’re not buying it.   
Or does that conclusively prove its validity???!!!?!? HMMMM??? 

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