The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Two stories about Qatar! One: UN human rights leaders call upon Qatar to release a poet, Mohammed al-Ajami, who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for reciting a poem in his home critical of the Crown Prince.
Meanwhile, Ahmed “Cool Clock” Mohamed, just after meeting the president, is going to move to Qatar with his family so he can attend the Qatar Foundation Young Innovators Program. Listen, Texas. These people have chosen Qatar over you. Self-reflect.
CBS is going to make a sitcom based on A.J. Jacobs’ book The Year of Living Biblically, where he tried to follow every literal tenet of the Bible. Gotta agree with the Big Eyeball on this one: that is ripe for funny.
For Skeptical Inquirer, Carrie Poppy expresses disappointment in a documentary that purports to show how Shaken Baby Syndrome does not exist:
With the world’s renewed interest in Shaken Baby Syndrome and potentially false accusations, an even-handed documentary examining the syndrome, its symptoms, its limitations, and its potential for misdiagnosis would be welcome. But this is not that movie.
Sam Harris slogs through a contentious interview to respond, vent, and occasionally curse.
Joey Savoie and Tee Barnett say that atheism jibes really well with altruism:
The often principled and examined lives of this crowd, continually shaped and enriched by facts and new information, fit neatly within a charitable cause that are primarily evidence-based.
Eugene Volokh points to two recent examples of blasphemy laws challenged and then upheld, in Poland and Malaysia.
Joe Nickell visits an open-air séance, complete with an “invisible bus” full of dead people.
France’s far-right leader Marie Le Pen defends herself at a trial over charges of hate speech.
All 17 candidates for the Cleveland County Board of Education in North Carolina support prayer at school board meetings. Great.
A Satanist is set to hold a book signing at an Oklahoma library, causing the library, apparently powerless to refuse him, to rethink its policy.
A poll from the University of Texas at Austin shows that 76% of Americans accept that climate change is a real thing.
Steven Novella looks at how in the U.S., people are responding more strongly to placebos than they used to.
Emily Willingham reports on how former Rep. Dan Burton, who once fought vaccines and spread autism myths, is now lobbying for Scientology.
Barf. Jonathan Edward is coming back to TV, with a show that “will move the genre forward by combining the paranormal with the latest technology.” Barf, guffaw, barf.
Quote of the Day:
Sam Haselby at Religion & Politics posits that Thomas Jefferson’s true religion was one of American nationalism:
To proclaim truths “self-evident” (or “sacred and undeniable,” as Jefferson’s first draft read) is to announce that one is not willing to debate the matter. This “proof” was not intended to convince skeptics, much less opponents, but to strengthen the bonds among believers. Benedict Andersen has called nations “imagined communities,” but “communities of faith” may be as accurate a description of the material with which nationalists work. Because nations are impossible to experience in any direct, tangible way, they depend on faith, in the scriptural sense. Patriots must believe in the “evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for,” as the scriptures define faith. The bonds of belief among nationalists are vital, especially early in nationalist movements. This mystical quality inherent within “We hold these truths to be self-evident” helps account for its status as a patriot proverb. It does not represent an argument, or even an idea, but a statement of belonging to what the French scholar Ernest Renan called the “spiritual family” of the nation.
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