The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
So I hear that the off-year elections were really quite something. I saw one journalist on Twitter refer to Republicans’ beat-down last night as a “bloodbath.” You already know the marquee races, but it’s also very notable that the man who is said to be the most hard-right, anti-LGBTQ state legislator in Virginia, a guy who is known as the “chief homophobe” and devised the Virginia version of the “bathroom bill,” was defeated last night, soundly, by a transgender woman. Danica Roem will be one of the nation’s first transgender elected officials who also does this and really pulls it off.
There were a lot of other milestones too. In Minneapolis, Andrea Jenkins became the first openly transgender woman of color elected to the city council of a major U.S. city. Virginia and New Jersey both elected African American lieutenant governors, and Tyler Titus became the first openly transgender person elected in Pennsylvania, winning a seat on the Eerie school board. AND Hoboken elected Ravinder Bhalla as its first Sikh mayor, two Latinas ousted GOP incumbents in the Virginia legislature, Helena, Montana now has a Liberian refugee as its mayor, and many more that, thank goodness, HuffPost rounded up.
Discussing his can’t-fail thoughts-and-prayers non-plan for addressing the gun epidemic, Paul Ryan explained that the “secular left” doesn’t understand faith, that we’re “sad” (or as Trump would say, “Sad!”), and that screw you, atheist jerks, prayer DOES work (my paraphrase). So we had a thing or two to say in response:
There is no evidence that intercessory prayer has any effect on earthly events, as numerous controlled studies have shown, and it won’t save anyone from future atrocities. So instead of dismissing legitimate criticism, the Speaker should work toward evidence-based solutions to the pressing national issue of gun violence.
It’s just us, now. Syria, which is barely a country right now, has signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving the U.S. as the sole holdouts. Whee.
The religious right in America is always looking for ways to criminalize women who choose not to be subject to forced births, and Mexico has its conservative zealots too. David Agren at The Guardian reports on the prosecutions of women who have had miscarriages. That’s right, women being charged with homicide because they’ve miscarried.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope ogles a planet called OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb, a gas planet so huge that it might not be a planet at all, but a brown dwarf star.
This is a bummer: The Global Atheist Convention scheduled for February in Melbourne, Australia has been cancelled due to “ticket sales [that] have been substantially below expectations and below the levels for previous conventions.”
Joe Nickell tells of his visit to the Pioneer Saloon outside of Las Vegas, allegedly haunted by several entities.
When I asked our server if she had ever “seen anything,” she answered, “no,” and, to my further query, repeated her answer. I suggested she might not believe strongly enough, and she acknowledged, “That’s the problem.” We agreed, in so many words, that believing is seeing.
Chris Stedman writes at The Washington Post about why we don’t see him talking about atheism much anymore. The short answer? All the goddamned jerks:
While most posts and comments were merely cruel insults, I was also threatened with violence and received death threats. I’ve watched as many of the activists and writers I respect most in atheism — especially women and people of color — have left the movement, each expressing (privately, if not publicly) that the state of the discourse among atheists was one of the primary reasons they were leaving.
Beyond the nastiness directed at me, I was even more frustrated with the ways the atheist movement, especially online, has resisted efforts to address racism, sexism and xenophobia among our own. I’ve been researching the intersection of atheism and the “alt-right” this year, and things don’t seem to have improved much in the years since I stepped back.
Aaaaand it just so happens that I was pointed to a different article by Stedman from a couple of weeks ago, at INTO, where he tells the coming-out story of Dean, who identifies as genderqueer. It’s an opportunity to wax on the concept of closets:
The closet is a well-trodden metaphor for queer people, and for good reason. As a kid, I hid a journal in my bedroom closet that detailed my struggles with being queer. My mom eventually discovered it and confronted me—but while my first reaction to her discovering my secret was to literally hide my face in my hands and pray that I might disappear forever, this exposure was ultimately the first step in my coming-out process. But even as I got older I continued to hide things in my bedroom closet, like empty liquor bottles before I got sober or the “personal” items I didn’t want my mom to see when she would visit me as an adult.
We all hide things within ourselves, but that’s not always harmful. Closets help us organize, keep order, and contain. They hold the things we don’t need to use all the time and guard our most intimate possessions. But closets are also where we sometimes shove our mess away and try to forget about it, only to rediscover it later.
In Indonesia, the Constitutional Court rules that religious minorities are now allowed to list their native faith on government forms, even their faith is not one deemed “official.”
The History Channel is going after the Zodiac Killer. Ted Cruz, get out of town NOW.
Quote of the Day:
Sarah Jones looks at the obsession on the right with the alleged atheism of the Texas shooter, and the bewildering resignation of conservative leaders to mass slaughters:
This is more than a sick kind of fatalism. It is the supplanting of one religion with another, which demands its own martyrs. “The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence,” Garry Wills wrote for The New York Review of Books in 2012. “Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails.” For Wills, the gun is child-devouring Moloch. It is almost as if, in stepping inside that house of worship, Devin Kelley conquered it for that god. And now its acolytes will spread a false gospel: Arm the teachers, arm the pastors, arm the toddlers.
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