Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 98

January 24, 2018

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

The Top Stories

lead_96a0.jpgThe Atlantic Magazine Profiles CFI’s Secular Rescue

This week, The Atlantic introduced the world to a Center for Inquiry program that exemplifies our commitment to free inquiry and humanist values: Secular Rescue.

As we have seen far too many times, to be an outspoken atheist in certain parts of the world is to put your life at risk. With Secular Rescue, we assist freethinking writers and activists whose lives are in danger by helping them relocate to safety. Dozens of individuals have been saved through Secular Rescue, relocated from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iraq, and now living safely and free to continue to shine the light of reason.

Writing for The Atlantic, David Robson spoke to CFI staff, academics and experts, and most importantly, one of the people who has been helped by Secular Rescue, the remarkable Lubna Yaseen. Targeted for her defiance of religion and the subjugation of women, militants in her conservative Iraq community threatened her life. “I disappeared—I left everything. I had to be always on the run, changing places and disguises,” she told The Atlantic. “I couldn’t feel anything except that I would end up being killed.”

Writes Robson, “Yaseen would still be at risk if it weren’t for the actions of Secular Rescue.”

Lubna goes into greater depth about her journey in her piece for Free Inquiry, “Resisting Radical Islam: My Escape to Freedom,” now available free online.

In the Atlantic article, Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of CFI, likens Secular Rescue to “an underground railroad for atheists,” from which the piece derives its title. Robyn acknowledges the inherent challenge in rallying support to the cause of saving atheists. “Part of the problem is that people don’t like atheists and it’s hard to protect a group you don’t like.”

Read the whole article here, and share it with your friends and social networks. Hopefully, it will awaken many more people to this crisis, and they will recognize that this kind of violence and persecution toward any group is unacceptable. Whether you like them or not.


104950720-GettyImages-71650006.530x298.jpgHHS “Religious Freedom Division” Is a Health and Human Disservice

In Donald Trump’s version of the Environmental Protection Agency, administrator Scott Pruitt sees to it that the agency does anything but protect the environment. It follows, then, that the Trump Administration would find a way to make it so that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) takes steps to prevent humans from receiving health services, and as is so often the case, the magic words used to justify this reversal are “religious liberty.”

Last week, it was reported that the HHS’s Office of Civil Rights would create a “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division,” which will defend the religious privilege of health care providers who claim their beliefs conflict with particular procedures or categories of care, including but not limited to abortions and sex-reassignment surgery. Instead of protecting the civil rights of people to receive health care, this division will protect the civil rights of beliefs in order to stop people from receiving health care.

CFI Director of Government Affairs Jason Lemieux said in our statement that this office represents “an abdication of the department’s vital responsibility to the health of all Americans, placing the dogmatic beliefs of a few above the health and lives of the people they serve.”

Nick Little, CFI’s vice president and legal counsel, said, “Religious beliefs do not need the protection of the HHS and its Civil Rights Division. It is Americans’ fundamental civil right to safe and secular health care that needs the protection of the HHS.”


brittttttt.pngA New Season of Reason with Reasonable Talk

CFI’s Reasonable Talk, our video series showcasing the best of CFI’s conferences and events, is back for a fifth season, starting with three great talks from CSICon 2017 in Las Vegas.

First, academic psychologist Rob Brotherton delves into the mind of the conspiracy theorist, exploring what has only recently been learned about “suspicious minds” and how all of us might be wired to believe in them.

Britt Marie Hermes is a former naturopath who is now a whistleblower against the unscientific, unregulated, and unsafe practices of the naturopathic profession. As Hermes explains, while many naturopathic doctors (NDs) practice without any kind of licensure, it’s the officially sanctioned NDs that may be the most dangerous.

The genetic engineering of plants and animals can address some of the most pressing problems faced by people all over the world, providing food and medicine through sustainable means. But as we learn from Kevin Folta, this needs to be communicated to the broader public in order to tamp down the irrational and destructive fears people have of the dreaded acronym “GMO.”

You can also check out video interviews with both Hermes and Folta from CSICon by the McGill Office for Science and Society.


CFI Highlights on the Web


Robert E. Bartholomew, a new fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, writes a special report on the recent Senate hearing on an alleged “sonic attack” in Cuba. Despite the doubts of some of the senators, Bartholomew cautions against blanket dismissal. Of those who claim to have experienced the attack, he says, “most are normal, healthy people who are experiencing a collective stress reaction.”

At the CFI Free Thinking blog, Benjamin Radford checks out an attempt to revive the “Blue Whale Suicide Game” conspiracy theory, and looks at the various ways people try to explain away the baffling contradictory statements emitted regularly by President Trump.

From the Joe Nickell snake oil collection, we have Celerina, a cure-all based on cocaine, which, interestingly, was not too far off from the original form of Coca-Cola, “The Ideal Nerve and Brain Tonic.” Plus, Joe reviews The Greatest Showman, the film based on the life of P.T. Barnum.

An antiabortion group at Oxford holding an event on the impact of abortion on men rescinded invitations from two speakers, one of whom was none other than Vincent Rue, the right-wing fixer behind many cases of manufactured and pseudoscientific “expert testimony” in U.S. abortion court cases. Oxford outlet Cherwell quotes CFI’s Nick Little about what is so problematic about this fellow, and Rue himself seems to know who’s got his number, citing “the Dawkins Foundations’ accusations.”

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.

Upcoming CFI Events

a24955756_1533735043349163_6431254107621602997_o.jpgCFI Austin

  • February 10: Darwin Day 2018 with keynote presentations, kids’ science activities, and more.

CFI Indiana

  • February 10: 8th Annual Civic Day with CFI’s Nick Little, Terri Jett from the ACLU of Indiana, Rima Shahid of Women4Change Indiana, and many more.

CFI Michigan

CFI Tampa Bay


Thank you!


Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values. Donate today!

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Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director. 

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at