The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
BBC radio highlights the voices of atheists in Pakistan who are trying not to get tortured or killed for their nonbelief. It’s dizzying.
Meanwhile, Pamela Constable at NYT reports on the Pakistani government’s capitulations to Islamic extremists over the past couple of weeks.
Mona El-Naggar, in a video report for The New York Times, profiles Esraa, a young Egyptian woman seeking her independence in a country choked by the threat of religious extremist violence.
Trump tells people the Access Hollywood tape is a fake. Billy Bush, finally making himself useful, says oh no it’s not.
Mike Pence, head of the administration’s Pandering Commission, tells CBN:
Well I think President Trump has a heart of gratitude for evangelical Christians in this country. I have to tell you, the sweetest words the President and I ever hear, and we hear them a lot, are when people grab us by the hand and say, ‘we’re praying for you.’
You sure you wanna use the words “grab us by the” here, Mike? Evocative, is all I’m saying.
Look at this: The tax “reform” bill passed by the Senate does not contain the repeal of the Johnson Amendment that the House version has. Interesting…
Chris Ladd at Forbes says the Republican Party has become a full-blown cult:
The party of “family values” is about to send a known sexual predator [Roy Moore] to the Senate because God wants them to. This would be startling, except they already used the same reasoning to put a known sexual predator in the White House. … Support for GOP plans is premised on cult allegiance and enforced by cult loyalty. Unbelievers would be no more likely to support Republican tax plans than to drink poison to catch a ride on a spaceship.
For almost 40 years, Voyager 1’s thrusters have gone unused. NASA’s JPL just fired them up again for a minor orientation adjustment, and they still worked.
Meet vulcanologist Jess Phoenix, candidate for the U.S. House in California, who wants to bring the values of Star Trek to Congress.
Al Gore talks to Alessandra Potenza at The Verge about why he hasn’t lost hope in the climate crisis (though I have), and how he sees his role in a culture of diversification and polarization.
As Michael Flynn plays the God card in his admission of guilt, Eugene Scott notes the disconnect between evangelical and conservative Catholic support for Trump and their distrust of Russia.
Jack Jenkins, in a Twitter thread, unpacks the weird arguments made by conservatives about whether Jesus would have supported the tax reform bill, and distinguishes between what Christianity expects of individuals verses the government.
The New York Daily News looks at the wide array of conspiracies that Trump seems to believe, and concludes, “The President of the United States is profoundly unstable. He is mad. He is, by any honest layman’s definition, mentally unwell and viciously lashing out.”
Ben Radford investigates what happened when a newspaper story about a black Santa was reported to have been flooded with racist comments, even though it never was (which is good!):
This disregard for truth has been a prominent theme in the Trump administration. Yes, some tiny minority of Muslims are terrorists; no one denies that, but that does not legitimize the sharing of bogus information as examples supposedly illustrating the problem. Similarly, yes, some tiny minority of Americans took exception to Jefferson as a black Santa, but that does not legitimize sharing false information about how a newspaper had to shut down its comments because of racist rage. There are enough real-life examples of hatred and intolerance that we need not invent new ones.
Beth Mole at Ars Technica looks at the explosion of HIV/AIDS in Russia, which can be attributed to the conspiracy theories asserting that HIV is a western hoax.
The Tennessean profiles former evangelical pastor Jim Palmer, now the head of a Nashville humanist group.
Several smart, important folks were asked what their final words would be if the world was about to end (which it more or less is, but whatever), and Richard Dawkins was among them:
We were quite proud of understanding such things as evolution and the fact that matter comes in a finite set of “elements.” While we made a start on what w
e called quantum theory, we found it bewildering, probably because our brains never evolved to understand the ultrasmall. We dreamed of a final Theory of Everything and a complete understanding of the origin of all things, including time. Perhaps you already have that. It is among our griefs that we perished before we could reach it.
The pope goes to Bangladesh and breaks his silence on the persecution of Rohingya Muslims:
We won’t close our hearts or look away. The presence of God today is also called Rohingya. … In the name of everyone, of those who have persecuted you, of those who have done you harm, above all for the indifference of the world, I ask forgiveness. Forgiveness.
Researchers have engineered a strain of bacteria that that uses new genetic “letters” to put an unnatural amino acid into proteins. WHAT COULD GO WRONG.
Quote of the Day:
I’m giving it to my 8-year-old son Toby.
Me: “I’m nice! I’m really nice!”
Toby [looking at me incredulously]: “I’d dial it back.”
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