Saltwater Cousins

October 19, 2016

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

Sarah Posner has a must-read at NYT on the stakes for evangelicals in the 2016 election, and their confused and wrought support for Trump: 

By hitching their wagon to Mr. Trump, religious-right leaders are also tying their fortunes to the alt-right, the predominant movement supportive of, and bolstered by, the Trump campaign. As a largely secular movement, though, the alt-right not only is uninterested in the religious right’s concerns, it also threatens to eclipse the religious right within the Republican Party. And it’s a movement simmering with racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.   

Relatedly, Jonathan Mahler at NYT reports that anti-Semitism is on the rise on social media and heavily centered around support for Trump.  

The Clergy Project lets us know that alumnus Teresa MacBain, who went from preacher to atheist activist to person-with-problematic-resume, has renounced her atheism and gone back to God. They conclude:

Some of our membership and of the larger freethought community may feel frustration over this turn of events. But we remind ourselves that such is the nature of freethought itself. Life is a long and winding journey, and our personal experiences and perceptions of the world around us are ever-evolving. Just as we are free to leave supernaturalism for atheism, so we are free to shift our embrace the other way as well.  

Massimo Polidoro takes on Theresa Caputo, “the fake Long Island medium,” in Skeptical Inquirer:

It all seems very silly, in the end, but it is quite distressing to look at the effect that banalities of this kind can have on the grieving. People get emotional; they start to cry and seem to be willing to give Caputo everything they have in order to speak again with their loved ones. Instead of helping the grieving accept their loss and go on with life, such “performers” keep them stuck in their sad situation, preventing their healing. 

Kylie Sturgess resurfaces a 2011 interview she did with the late Robert Todd Carroll, who told her, “I’ve always felt that there’s got to be a way to enchant people, but at the same time, let them make their own discoveries and let them make their own decisions.” 

Naomi Russo at Atlas Obscura looks at the various conspiratorial explanations for “angel hair,” which has been established to just be spider-web-stuff. No matter! It’s aliens! No wait, chemtrails! 

Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Maher will not run for president. “I think religion is bad and drugs are good.” 

The latest Campus Inquirer covers Carl Sagan Day, CSICon, and a highlight from International Blasphemy Rights Day. 

Marine Le Pen would like to ban not only Muslim headscarves in all of France’s public places, but also Jewish yarmulkes. I’m sure she’ll also be cracking down on crosses, too, right? 

Massachusetts law says public places have to allow transgender folks to use the restroom of their choice. So of course, it’s an important use of time, money, and resources for four churches to sue to exempt themselves, because what could be more spiritually important than forcing people to use a toilet they don’t want to use…for Jesus!

The Atheist Alliance of America announces a big restructuring, dropping lots of names from the skepto-atheosphere, and emphasizing the promotion of Peter Boghossian’s “street epistemology.” 

Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court will remove “Our Father” from the Lord’s Prayer. Newt Gingrich said so, and he’s been right about everything. 

Trending in Pakistan social media is the hashtag “HangAsia,” urging the death penalty for Asia Bibi, sentenced for blasphemy. 

A Nebraska billboard saying that it’s possible to have a good life without God is taken down because it’s just too upsetting

The Loch Ness Monster helped the Allies win the war by sinking a German U-boat. Of course, that’s ridiculous, because Nessie would have been stuck within Loch Ness. So it was clearly one of her “saltwater cousins.”

Quote of the Day

This has nothing to do with skepto-atheism or anything, but it moved me (and I don’t presume it to be righteous grand-standing as some have alleged). In the WikiLeaks dump of Democrats’ emails, Center for American Progress chief Neera Tanden is seen to have called Prof. Larry Lessig “smug” and said, “Like I’d like to kick the shit out of him on twitter.” (Lessig was a candidate for the Democratic nomination at the time but was barred from the debates.) In response, Lessig says:

I can’t for the life of me see the public good in a leak like this — at least one that reveals no crime or violation of any important public policy. 

We all deserve privacy. The burdens of public service are insane enough without the perpetual threa
t that every thought shared with a friend becomes Twitter fodder. Neera has only ever served in the public (and public interest) sector. Her work has always and only been devoted to advancing her vision of the public good. It is not right that she should bear the burden of this sort of breach. 

What a breath of fresh air in a time like this. 

Tanden has, by the way, personally apologized to Lessig.  

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