Appetite for Mars

February 5, 2016

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

Bernie Sanders’ religion or lack thereof is, surprisingly to me, a very hot topic of late. At Quartz, the most excellent Jennifer Michael Hecht (who notes that she leans toward Clinton) reflects on the broader importance of Sanders’ secularism:

Sanders’ deeply humanist views make me think that he could turn out to be a good leader for our heterogeneous nation—both because he is brave enough to speak a new kind of truth about religion, and because he is motivated to do the right thing for its own sake. … A candidate ready to admit that he is not a part of any religion, while respecting people whose beliefs differ from his own, might well be the person who can lead our fractured country toward trust and unity. 

This squares nicely with Pew’s numbers on religious belief in New Hampshire, where Sanders is dominating. 36% of Granite Staters are nones46% of Democrats

Lauren Nelson at Friendly Atheist catches Sanders saying, “I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings,” though he fairly well dilutes that statement later.

March 5 and 6 in DC, CFI is a co-sponsor of a Code Pink conference on U.S.-Saudi relations.

Apoorva Mandavilli at Scientific American reports on the Indian government’s hostility to science

The country of Georgia may soon have its own blasphemy law

Space scientist John Sommerer says NASA’s promises of a manned Mars mission is not nearly as likely as is being portrayed:

Sommerer told Congress that the nation either needs to commit wholeheartedly to a Mars mission, or the agency should stop pretending it is on the course to go there with humans. “It might be better to stop talking about Mars if there is no appetite in Congress and the Administration for higher human spaceflight budgets and more disciplined execution by NASA,” he said. 

Meanwhile, these “growths” on Mars could maybe possibly be an indication of early life, but we won’t know until at least 2020 when the next rover is scheduled to land with the required equipment to analyze it. 

In China, you’re not allowed to be religious and work for the government, nor can you adopt a religion when you retire. Said one official:

There are clear rules that retired officials who are party members cannot believe in religion and cannot attend religious activities, and must resolutely struggle against evil cults.

Daniel Estrin at Haaretz reports that practitioners of the pseudoscientific boondoggle of “gay conversion therapy” are finding safe haven in Israel

Two fake-psychics in NYC are arrested for “fortune telling fraud” for charging $1000 to remove a curse. I woud love for this to be a new reality show, where cops bust fake-psychics. COPS – PSYCHICS: YOU NEVER SAW THEM COMING.

Giles Fraser characterizes France’s take on secularism:

It’s a bit like the Victorian attitude to sex: if you must do it, do it privately and don’t talk about it. Here, secularism treats religion as a dirty little secret, and manifests itself as a restriction of public prayer or the open expression of religious identity. And that’s about as neutral as the attitude to God taken by state communism. 

Here’s Speaker Paul Ryan, at the National Prayer Breakfast, being wrong:

When people we say we’re praying for someone or something, the attitude in some quarters these days is, “Don’t just pray – do something about it!” Thing is, when you are praying, you are doing something about it.  

Quote of the Day:

John Kasich:

I don’t go out and try to win a vote by using God. I think that cheapens God.

I don’t think one can “cheapen” God, of course, but I appreciate the sentiment nonetheless. 

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Original image by Shutterstock

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