His Holiness Teddy Ruxpin

April 27, 2016

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

On Point of Inquiry this week, Lindsay Beyerstein talks to Rebecca Traister about the subject of her new book, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation

Maajid Nawaz, writing at The Daily Beast, leads with, “There really is no other way to put this. Free thinkers in Bangladesh are being serially hacked to death in their homes.” He says:

By visibly killing off dissenters in such a public way, extremists seek to scare us all into silence. The targeting starts with atheists and “blasphemers,” but almost always moves on to the sexually diverse, liberals, secularists, and minority sects—Muslim or otherwise—that rely on such pluralism to flourish.

At CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Alejandro Borgo (in both English and Spanish) raises the problem of the “professionalization” of exorcists in Argentina

Sarah Sloat at Inverse profiles BiZoHa, an atheist/humanist orphanage and school in Uganda, launched from US by folks from the transhumanist movement.

CFI–Los Angeles’s James Underdown is one of the guests on Dan Schneider’s show at Cosmoetica, discussing “the unexplained.” 

After Turkey’s parliament speaker says that secularism could be on the chopping block for the country’s constitution, members of the ruling party say, in effect, ‘Whoa whoa whoa no we are NOT saying that.’ 

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman introduces a reform plan called “Vision 2030,” which gingerly hints at openness to some social changes, which of course is making the Wahhabists nuts.

David and Collet Stephan allowed their 19-month-old son Ezekiel to die of meningitis when they opted not to seek medical care for him, but to treat him “with remedies that included smoothies with hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish.” A court in Alberta just found them guilty of failing to provide Ezekiel with the necessities of life, and they now face up to 5 years in prison.

More and more, the activities of the Satanic Temple are generating serious interest. Here’s Joseph Laycock:

As a religion scholar, I find TST fascinating. Not only do their campaigns raise serious questions about the First Amendment and religious pluralism, they also challenge the public to think about what counts as a “religion.”  …  In many ways, TST is the heir to the “New Left” of the 1960s and such figures as Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg. 

Stephen Law seeks your feedback on a litany of claims and sentiments as to whether they count as “Islamophobic.”  

James G. Chappel at the Boston Review looks at four books that tackle secularism vs. religion. Here’s a thought that’s novel at least to me:

Secularism … affirms the rightful place of religion in the ways of the home and therefore family and gender relations. Thus, rather than sever the explosive link between religion and female sexuality, secularism may strengthen it.

Secularism, it turns out, is at least partially responsible for the persistence of religious division and religious conflict and is therefore not the most obvious solution to them. To return to the example with which we started, the reminder that Islam is a “religion of peace,” often heard from good-hearted secularists, surreptitiously grants an independent reality to something called Islam—something with which an opponent might go to war and which might serve to mark certain individuals as a threat. 

The leader of a group of Indian “holy women” allows herself to be buried alive in protest of being denied the right to bathe in holy waters at a religious festival. Police intervened, and she was not allowed to die. 

There’s a lot of fascinating stuff in this week’s RDFRS newsletter, including pieces on the challenges faced by black atheists, a “minority-within-a-minority,” and a neat takedown of the teleological argument.  

Openly humanist Maryland state senator Jamie Raskin won his primary last night for the House seat being vacated by Chris Van Hollen (who won the Senate primary). I actually know Raskin a tiny bit, from when he was on the board of my former organization FairVote. Good egg. Congrats, sir! 

Mandie Czech at The Chicago Monitor argues for an atheist-Muslim alliance in the U.S.:

If Muslims and Atheists stand together, the chances of political change increase and this benefits everyone. There is no reason why they cannot work together. From my standpoint, the sooner they do, the faster we can forget about people like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. 

Bigfoot found in London. It’s! 

Quote of the Day:

In China, there is an adorable Robot Monk, sort of a spiritual BB-8/Teddy Ruxpin. Douglas Adams was prophetic. Let’s give him the QOTD, on his Electric Monk from Dirk Gently:

The problem with the valley was this. The Monk currently believed that the valley and everything in the valley and around it, including the Monk itself and the Monk’s horse, was a uniform shade of pale pink. This made for a certain difficulty in distinguishing any one thing from any other thing, and therefore made doing anything or going anywhere impossible, or at least difficult and dangerous. Hence the immobility of the Monk and the boredom of the horse, which had had to put up with a lot of silly things in its time but was secretly of the opinion that this was one of the silliest.

How long did the Monk believe these things?

Well, as far as the Monk was concerned, forever. The faith which moves mountains, or at least believes them against all the available evidence to be pink, was a solid and abiding faith, a great rock against which the world could hurl whatever it would, yet it would not be shaken.

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Original image by Shutterstock

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