The Season of Sadness and Despair

December 23, 2013

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

This week, CFI caps off its Living without Religion ad campaign with a Times Square ad expressing our wishes for peace and enlightenment in the New Year. Meanwhile, the New York Times includes CFI's Living without Religion ad campaign in its story on atheists' take on the holidays:

One recent Monday night, Ms. Crespi was one of 10 young men and women from the Center for Inquiry who stood freezing on a Times Square sidewalk for 45 minutes, waiting for 15 seconds of inspiration. When the video billboard sponsored by the Center for Inquiry finally appeared on 42nd Street, pronouncing that millions of Americans are living happily without religion, the chilled audience whooped, clapped and hastily took a picture.

I haven't had a chance to watch this yet, but I have a feeling CFI's marketing director Lauren Becker is going to swoon over it. Aeon posts a short film on Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan "and the love letter they sent to the stars." 

TNR reposts a classic 1990 piece by James S. Henry, who should be pals with Tom Flynn. They both really hate Christmas:

Far from being "the season to be jolly," Christmas is really the season of sadness and despair. This period's compulsory merriment, hypercommercialism, heavy drinking, and undue media emphasis on the idealized, two-child, two-parent, orthodox Christian family makes those who don't share such lifestyles or religious sentiments feel left out, lonely, and even somewhat un-American. And even in so-called normal families, media hype about the season's merriments often raises expectations and sets up many for disappointment.  

James Bloodworth at New Statesman on the response to Pope Fluffy:

What’s so depressing has been the extent to which liberal non-believers have fallen so hook, line and sinker for what is in reality nothing more than a clever repackaging exercise. 

Last week was a lolla-Paul-ooza. I was the guest for the hour on Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin Show talking about atheism in politics, and to my knowledge no one was hurt as a result. Though Hitler and Stalin did come up.

Also, I opined at length at Friendly Atheist on the prospects for the medium of blogs in the skepto-atheist movement. 

Kimberly Winston interviews Justin Aclin, co-creator of a secular humanist superhero comic, S.H.O.O.T. (Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce).  

Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina is free. But of course, it's more complicated than that.

No really, a right wing group is working on a more conservative version of the Bible because, darn it, it's just not backward enough. 

Ryan T. Cragun writes The Humanist on the ways atheists experience "spirituality." (Also see Cragun's Free Inquiry web-exclusive on why Santa is a baaad idea.) 

Muslim staff at Marks & Spencer stores in the UK now do not have to handle or sell alcohol or pork

Neil deGrasse Tyson does a quick Q&A with NYT, and I agree with his pick for best astronomy book. 

Billboard-opposing NY state senator Andrew Lanza calls atheists "hateful and malicious," then edits himself somewhat. 

Shapow, y'all. Another federal judge clears the way for same-sex marriage, this time in Utah of all places

Ben Radford has a list of busted myths for 2013, "the year that wasn't." 

Catherine Peters, treasurer of the Morton Grove Library in Illinois, rejects a donation from Hemant Mehta, calling Friendly Atheist a "hate group." Um. 

Electrons seem to be perfect little spheres, and that's a big pain in the ass for scientists. 

Tim Binga unearths a Hollywood gem from the CFI Libraries, a Steve Allen pilot script for a show about famous minds from history discussing The Big Questions. 

Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones breaks down the revenue numbers for Catholic hospitals and concludes:

[A]s Catholic hospitals have merged and expanded into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, they've moved far beyond their religious mission and become like any other large corporation. Given those trends, and the hospitals' reliance on public funding, it's hard to see how they can continue to justify their mixing of Catholic doctrine with health care, especially when it disproportionately violates standards of care for women. 

At the CSI website, LaRae Meadows looks back on the diphtheria outbreaks of the 20th century as a cautionary tale for today, correcting some ahistorical assertions by anti-vaxxers along the way. 

Protests by Muslim groups intimidate a Bengali television channel into canceling a new program based on the writings of Taslima Nasreen.

London School of Economics apologizes to the students it told to cover up their Jesus and Mo shirts.

Houston lawyer sues a fake psychic for breach of contract after a pointless and expensive tarot card reading. 

Jack Vance: Thank you, Satanists

Isaac Chotiner interviews Deborah Mitchell, author of Growing Up Godless, about how atheists can deal with Christmas and Santa

Sharon Hill rounds up a week of bad press for the supplement industry. She's also got some great stuff on "angelology," where, yes, definitive statements are made by "experts" on what angels are and are not.

Louisiana: Please pick better elected officials. Here's Shreveport City Council member Ron Webb on why the town should reject an anti-discrimination ordinance: "The Bible even tells you that homosexuals is abomination." Do I need to add the "sic"? What a wordsmith. 

Volunteers in Sacramento are putting on a Darwin Day event on February 9, 2014 featuring NASA astrobiologist Dr. Lynn Rothschild. 

Best. Nativity. Ever

Quote of the Day

Journalist Josh Barro, frustrated by religionists on Twitter, asks a question that more in his field should ask:

Who came up with the rule that a viewpoint is supposed to be respected just because the holder declares it to be a religious one?   

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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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