Constant as the Northern Star

March 15, 2017


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

The end of an era for our wider secular movement, as Rev. Barry Lynn announces his coming retirement from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I can hardly imagine him not being on the scene! He’s certainly earned a break after 25 years. Hats off to you, sir.

Last night you may have gotten all excited about the unveiling of Trump’s tax returns, and it’s also likely you were let down by the lack of any interesting in them. Anyhoo, the returns in question were acquired first by David Cay Johnston, who was on Rachel Maddow’s show last night, and you can hear from him on the subject of Trump and his dirty laundry, on an episode of Point of Inquiry from August.

Speaking of Point of Inquiry! Lindsay Beyerstein has a great new conversation with the excellent Dahlia Lithwick, discussing the new-improved Trump travel ban.

This may drive you nuts. Peter Beinart at The Atlantic writes that the rise of Trump and the alt-right can be pinned on the secularization of America:

Maybe it’s the values of hierarchy, authority, and tradition that churches instill. Maybe religion builds habits and networks that help people better weather national traumas, and thus retain their faith that the system works. For whatever reason, secularization isn’t easing political conflict. It’s making American politics even more convulsive and zero-sum.

Looking at the same PRRI study as Beinart, Amanda Marcotte sees it this way:

… this study is just further evidence that a lot of the political polarization in our country is the direct result of white evangelical Christians realizing that they no longer are the dominant majority and lashing out angrily in an effort to regain the levels of influence they used to enjoy. … The same people who thought this would always be “their” country are not only finding that the laws are geared toward a diverse and tolerant nation, but also that even their cultural values, like disapproval of premarital sex, are on the wane. In this context, Trump has become their weapon for lashing out.

At The New Republic, Emily Atkin reports on how Rep. Lamar Smith’s Science Committee is going to screw up science really, really badly because there’s no Obama in office to veto its crazy, anti-science bills. For example, here’s the cynically named HONEST act:

… the HONEST Act would delay or stymie the approval of scientific data at EPA because it requires that the disclosure of private data and that study results be “reproducible,” meaning an outside source must be able to replicate the entire study on their own and get the same results. Scientists say that’s just not possible for many public health studies. Consider a 10-year study of lead exposure in pregnant women and children: How would scientists swiftly replicate the results? Or a study on the BP oil spill’s impact on public health in coastal Gulf communities: How can one reproduce that event?

Plus it looks like Trump is about to order that climate change no longer be taken into account in any environmental reviews, while Sen. James “Snowball” Inhofe has managed to infect the EPA with his underlings.

Rex Tillerson reportedly says that the U.S. will leave the UN Human Rights Council (where our guy Michael De Dora is right now) if it doesn’t kick out some bad actors (kind of understandable) and be nicer to Israel.

We live in a world in which the New York Times editorial board must inform a sitting Member of Congress, one Steve King (R-Crazytown), that “illegal immigration is not an abortion-linked repopulation scheme.”

Andrew Sullivan calls intersectionality “a religion,” saying, “It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered.” Lauren Nelson at Friendly Atheist rebuts:

There is no deity being praised. There are no churches. There are no sacraments. These ideologies don’t stem from books written thousands of years ago with centuries of suspect revisions and politicized interpretations. It stems from actual modern lived experiences.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan says social media sites will be blocked if they don’t take down their “blasphemous” content, saying, “All relevant institutions must unite to hunt those who spread such material and to award them strict punishment under the law.” Hunt??? Really???

This is some interesting casting: Melissa Leo, who I know from Homicide: Life on the Street (like, one of the best shows ever), plays Madalyn Murray O’Hair in the Netflix film The Most Hated Woman in America.

North Dakota holds on to its Blue Laws because it’s important North Dakotans take the day to worship.

Quote of the Day:

It is indeed the Ides of March. So here’s Caesar:

I could be well moved, if I were as you
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me:
But I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix’d and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumber’d sparks,
They are all fire and every one doth shine,
But there’s but one in all doth hold his place:
So in the world; ’tis furnish’d well with men,
And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive;
Yet in the number I do know but one
That unassailable holds on his rank,
Unshaked of motion: and that I am he.

And then he was stabbed to death.

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