The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Carissa Wolf at the Post reports on how religious sects and their beliefs in faith healing have claimed the lives of hundreds of children, focusing on Idaho where the neglect of kids by the Followers of Christ have killed 183 kids since the law gave them a religious exemption:
Efforts to repeal faith-exemption laws across the nation pitted parental rights and religious freedom against children’s welfare. After decades of lobbying state lawmakers across the country, child advocates succeeded in overturning only a handful of exemptions in states including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon and Tennessee.
See, I would think that “children’s welfare” would trump just about anything, even the admittedly powerful tag-team of parental rights and religious freedom. It’s like, you slap down the “children’s welfare” card and you get to shout “I win!” But no.`
The University of Miami’s student newspaper, The Hurricane (maybe think about changing that?), introduces students to Anjan Chakravartty, the first chair of the university’s atheism and secular ethics program.
In Skeptical Inquirer, psychology professor Terence Hines looks at the pseudoscience upon which white supremacists hang their pointy hoods, and why it’s more complicated even than that:
There is a big difference between the run-of-the-mill pseudoscientific belief and racist beliefs. Racists tend to be much more aggressive in asserting their beliefs, at least following the election of President Donald Trump. I doubt one would ever see a group of believers in astrology brandishing clubs and guns to attack a group of skeptics. This tendency toward more virulent and violent defense of their beliefs will make it more difficult to alter racist attitudes. The standard social psychology textbook answer to the issue of reducing stereotyping and prejudice is to have prejudiced individuals work together with members of the disliked group and so discover they’re just regular people. I doubt that approach will work in the present political climate.
Some doctor from an Islamic group in Ireland says female genital mutilation (he just calls it “female circumcision”) should be allowed in some circumstances, as when it’s “medically necessary,” but gives no examples as to what could possibly arise to justify this horror, and that, “If [the practice is] inherited it doesn’t have to be rejected, it has to be considered and not rejected just because it’s inherited.” Um, no, it does not. At all. You just made that up.
Muslim groups in Canada are petitioning the government to establish an anti-Islamophobia day, but the Canadian public is not on board. At the Vancouver Sun, David Millard Haskell discusses the implications:
For many Canadians, overly broad definitions of “Islamophobia” lead them to reject the day of action. Some definitions of the term insist any criticism of Muslim people or Islamic practices — be it political, cultural, or religious — qualifies as Islamophobia. … While fear of seeming bigoted may drive some non-Muslims to keep quiet, most Canadians — Muslim and non-Muslims alike — who want to restrict criticism of Islam are more nobly motivated. They believe that such action fosters unity in society. But censorship is an acid, not a glue, when it comes to progress and social cohesion.
Tyler Cowan considers several of the more well-known conspiracy theories and wonders, which conspiracy theories are the most underrated?
This is so awful and dimwitted, I almost can’t believe it. State lawmakers in South Carolina (of course) want to pass a bill that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman (nothing new there) and redefine same-sex marriages as “parody marriages.” Adam Manno at the Charleston City Paper writes:
The text claims that gay marriages violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution because they are inherently “non-secular” and part of “the religion of Secular Humanism.” As opposed to straight marriages, which, you know, have absolutely nothing to do with years of patriarchy merged with biblical concepts.
A similar bill in Wyoming, where about 7 people live, is already done for.
At Psychology Today, new CSI fellow Robert Bartholomew dismantles a recent study on an alleged “sonic attack” in Cuba, saying, “their study is highly descriptive, remarkably vague, and makes claims that are not supported by the data.”
Ben Radford says that the pearl-clutching over the Fifty Shades movies and claims that they are somehow dangerous to society (for reasons other than being terrible movies) are insufficiently warranted, and don’t give women enough credit for being able to distinguish between reality and fiction.
Hector Avalos at The Christian Post looks at the rise of the nones, but focuses on young, nonreligious Latinos and Latinas. Out of the 57 million Latinos in the U.S., 20 percent are unaffiliated:
Mass media advertisements, especially those emphasizing the separation of religion and government, may be one way to attract them. In fact, politicians may win points just by acknowledging the existence of, and respect for, Latino nones. The rise of the Latino nones could have been on the cover of TIME magazine in 2013. The rise of Latino nones definitely merits a cover story for any national news outlet today.
At the magazine Cosmos (not the show!) Stephen Fleischfresser reports on discoveries about how vampire bats survive off of animal blood with the help of microorganisms, which he says suggests that the gene is not the sole “unit of selection” in evolution:
Not only did [scientists] uncover more than 280 disease-causing bacterial species, as well as a horde of species unique to the vampire bat, but they identified genes associated with various traits, many of which appear to help the bat overcome the problems of drinking blood.
May 24-26 the first Latin American Convention of Freethinkers will be held in Arequipa, Peru.
Anyway, in times of serious tragedy, grief, and fear, it’s a good thing we have leaders in Washington who are taking it all extremely seriously and — What? He gave Trump a literal bag of thoughts and prayers??? Jesus effing….I quit.
Quote of the Day
At The Gazette, religion professor Peter explains why religious schools shouldn’t be getting any funding from government, and why this is to the benefit of everyone:
Do we want state funding of extremists that preach beliefs that are dangerous to democratic or civil society? The public schools play a vital role in preparing young people for responsible democratic citizenship. Such citizenship includes developing an understanding of and respect for religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity, and it might require exposure to ideas that are controversial within one’s religious tradition. Through an evidence-based pursuit of knowledge and the free exchange of diverse ideas, young people learn how to become critical thinkers and engage in reasoned discourse, and students from all walks of life feel empowered in the process. Thus public education promotes the public good — a worthy goal of our public dollars.
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